Having organized the scenarios and detailed the general methodology for Scenario 2 in the last article, we shall now discuss the indicators for intervention and determine the likelihood of intervention occurring for the General National Congress (GNC), Council of Representatives (COR), and Government of National Accord (GNA), as well as see how the general case envisioned previously needs to be amended to reflect the reality on the ground as interventions have started. The initial narratives for the intervention scenarios can be found here (scenarios 2(1) to 2(9)).

Note: we shall use the acronym COR for the Council of Representatives (nationalists), GNC for the General National Congress (Islamists), and GNA for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (unity government).

Scenarios trees for intervention

It is important to note that the indicators take into account any type of intervention that supports one of the Libyan governments—whether a full military intervention, or a more low-key military intervention that includes small contingents of foreign military personnel (whether military or private contractors). Although the Libyan Government of National Accord does not consider counterterrorism operations conducted by its external supporters as an intervention (Abu-Husain, Libya Tribune, January 23, 2017), we include such actions since they may degrade part of the domestic and international legitimacy of the other governments and can motivate a retaliatory deployment of forces by other external actors, as well as, alternatively, open the door to accusations by the other governments of subservience of the GNA to foreigners, which in turn can boost the standing of the other governments. In all cases, the balance of forces, on the ground, has been altered.

To generate a more accurate likelihood of scenarios based on current realities, we revised our scenario trees to begin with the COR and GNA interventions—both of which are occurring, and thus are the solid foundation upon which all other scenarios develop. Because Western and Arab forces were supporting Haftar’s forces in a limited capacity before Western forces launched a coordinated campaign alongside GNA forces in Sirte last summer (El-Bar, Middle East Eye, July 29, 2016; Middle East Monitor, June 23, 2016), we used the Intervention in Support of the COR scenario first, followed by Intervention in Support of the GNA as depicting the past. With these two scenarios already occurring, we can now focus on calculating the likelihoods of future scenarios.

Since the only remaining COR and GNA scenarios in the future are those of external actors increasing their level of intervention, we ensured that the indicators reflected this change. No external actors have intervened on behalf of the GNC yet, thus the related indicators are slightly different to monitor the likelihood of initial intervention.

Evaluating the Indicators

*The likelihood of each indicator is based on the current reality on the ground, which may warrant a change of likelihood as we progress through each scenario in the forthcoming articles.

The following scenarios and their indicators will show how we determined the numerical likelihoods based on current realities. We use the following table for our likelihood levels:

Scenario: Intervention in Support of the COR

Emirati IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractor attack plane at Al Khadim air base in Libya

1. Are external actors actively intervening for the COR in Libya? 100% (Certain). The most conclusive evidence of active intervention in Libya is from the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the infrastructure at Al Khadim air base (controlled by Haftar) and has participated in conflict in support of Haftar’s forces. Since at least the summer of 2016, Emirati IOMAX AT-802 Air Tractor attack planes and Chinese-made Wing Loong drones piloted by mercenaries under the employ of Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater, a former private security contractor) have “[carried] out air-support missions on behalf of Libyan National Army fighters battling Islamic militants in Benghazi” (Delalande, War Is Boring, February 6, 2017; Assad, The Libya Observer, January 16, 2017). Both Italy and Russia have flown some of Haftar’s wounded soldiers back to their countries for medical treatment (Bocchi, Libya Herald, March 16, 2017; Markey, Reuters, February 1, 2017), while Russia has “agreed to provide care for up to 500 wounded fighters,” or more on an as-needed basis (Agence France Presse, February 2, 2017). Meanwhile, Moscow appears to have recently supplied Haftar’s air force with a MiG-23 Flogger fighter jet, which is undergoing maintenance at Haftar’s Al Abraq air base (Delalande and Pusztai, War Is Boring, March 1, 2017). Furthermore, there have been reports alleging that Russian Special Forces and military drones have deployed on Egypt’s western border with Libya (DEBKAfile, March 14, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 100% likelihood.

Scenario: Increased Intervention in Support of the COR

1. Are external actors willing to increase their support for the COR despite intervention for the other Libyan governments? 72% (Highly Likely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 1a and 1b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 72%.

1a. Do the COR’s external supporters have minimal constraints that affect their ability to increase their level of intervention? 80% (Highly Likely). Egypt is struggling to deal with its terrorism threat in the Sinai­—although Cairo sees strong links between terrorist groups in Libya and the Sinai (Zahid, Voice of America, March 18, 2017; Mazel, The Jerusalem Post, February 21, 2017). Considering Russia’s active role in the Syrian civil war, as well as its 25.5% budget cut in defense spending for 2017 (Caffrey, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 16, 2017), Moscow does appear constrained from a full military intervention in Libya. However, this indicator takes into account any level of intervention, which means Moscow can certainly afford to provide low-key military support to Haftar’s forces (particularly through the use of contractors). Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates appears to have enough latitude to more directly support the COR with attack planes, drones, and mercenary pilots, while simultaneously improving the Al Khadim airbase that is speculated to support Emirati fighter jets in the near future (Delalande, War Is Boring, February 6, 2017; Delalande, War Is Boring, January 14, 2017; Delalande, Middle East Eye, March 21, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator an 80% likelihood.

1b. Do external actors have national interests in bolstering the COR despite intervention for the GNA or GNC? 90% (Almost Certain). For Moscow, a Libyan state controlled by Haftar and the COR could offer lucrative oil and arms deals, as well as a government friendly to Russia’s strategic goals for the Middle East and North Africa (Barmin, Al-Monitor, December 7, 2016; TASS, March 15, 2017). Egypt and the United Arab Emirates also have strong national interests in supporting Haftar and the COR, notably in order to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from exerting its influence in Libya (Cher-Leparrain, The New Arab, February 22, 2017; Trager, The Washington Institute, March 8, 2017). Thus, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

2. Is the COR facing heightened risk that pressure its supporting external actors to increase their level of intervention? 85% (Almost Certain). Earlier this month, the Benghazi Defence Brigade seized the oil ports of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra that were controlled by Haftar’s forces since last year (Middle East Monitor, March 7, 2017). Although the Libyan National Army regained control of the ports, the activity portrays heightened risk for the COR. Despite Haftar partnering with some Western Special Forces over the last year, the willingness of Western actors to also back forces opposed to the COR (notably Misrata) during the liberation of Sirte has increased the risk for Haftar and the COR (Ryan and Raghavan, The Washington Post, August 9, 2016). Although providing military support for the GNA forces during the campaign to retake Sirte was considered strictly counter-terrorism by the GNA (Abu-Husain, Libya Tribune, January 23, 2017), it nonetheless allowed Misrata’s forces to bolster their presence in Central Libya—thus threatening the COR by default. The coast guard training support by Italy, counter-terrorism airstrikes by the U.S., and continued intelligence support by both (Bocchi, Libya Herald, February 16, 2017; Schmitt and Gordon, The New York Times, January 19, 2017; ANSAmed, February 27, 2017; Dickstein, Stars and Stripes, March 24, 2017) in support of the GNA also weakens the COR legitimacy. Furthermore, the COR parliament is experiencing political chaos that also heightens the risk (Mulvany, Middle East Confidential, March 13, 2017; Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, February 28, 2017). However, also considering the increased level of tribal support for General Haftar (Cusack, The New Arab, March 21, 2017) and his Libyan National Army’s foothold in eastern Libya (Estelle, Critical Threats, March 13, 2017), we gave this indicator an 85% likelihood.

Scenario: Intervention in Support of the GNA

1. Are external actors actively intervening for the GNA in Libya? 100% (Certain). Although the U.S. ended its air campaign that backed GNA forces in their fight to retake Sirte (Deutsche Welle, December 21, 2016), it continues to support the GNA with intelligence on ISIS fighter movements and counter-terrorism strikes—evidenced by the January bombing of Islamic State training camps in southern Libya (Schmitt and Gordon, The New York Times, January 19, 2017) and recently confirmed by General Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of U.S. Africa Command (deGrandpre, Military Times, March 24, 2017; Dickstein, Stars and Stripes, March 24, 2017). Furthermore, Italy is training Libyan coast guard units (all of which are tied to the GNA) in an effort to better counter human traffickers that are ferrying migrants to Italy’s coast (Bocchi, Libya Herald, February 16, 2017; Kington, DefenseNews, March 20, 2017). Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni recently mentioned the effectiveness of Italian intelligence in combatting migrant traffickers and monitoring ISIS fighter movements in Libya (ANSAmed, February 27, 2017). Considering Italy’s coast guard training agreement with the GNA, as well as its attempt to strike a migrant deal with the Sarraj government (Libyan Express, March 23, 2017) we assume that this intelligence is in support of the unity government. With these realities in mind, we gave this indicator a 100% certainty.

Scenario: Increased Intervention in Support of the GNA

1. Are external actors willing to increase their support for the GNA despite intervention for the other Libyan governments? 63% (Likely). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 1a and 1b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 63%.

1a. Do the GNA’s external supporters have minimal constraints that affect their ability to increase their level of intervention? 70% (Highly Likely). Currently, the U.S. and various European countries are providing military support to Iraqi forces around Mosul, and the U.S. is increasing its military commitment in Syria as well as expanding its counterterrorism campaign in Yemen (Gordon, The New York Times, March 9, 2017; Burns, ABC News, March 23, 2017; Ryan, Gibbons-Neff, and Al-Mujahed, The Washington Post, March 2, 2017). Despite some of these constraints, the United States and Italy are already minimally involved in Libya and have the ability to increase their level of intervention depending on the need, all the more so considering the American huge budgetary increase in terms of defense—provided Congress approves it by April 28 (Tritten, Stars and Stripes, March 22, 2017). In terms of intention, the U.S. noted at the 22 March Summit in Washington that the anti-ISIS coalition will concentrate on “regional elimination of ISIS through military force” (RT, March 22, 2017), which could lead to ease decision to step up intervention in Libya. However, the Brexit on the one hand, the coming elections in France with its high element of uncertainty (Croft and Melander, Reuters, March 24, 2017) could also impact decision to step up intervention, including in terms of timing—thus we gave this indicator a 70% likelihood.

1b. Do external actors have national interests in bolstering the GNA despite intervention for the COR or GNC? 90% (Almost Certain). The uncontrolled refugee flow through Libya, as well as security instability, remains a national interest for European countries—particularly Italy (Euractiv, March 21, 2017; Yahoo News, March 3, 2017). The U.S. and EU are also concerned with extremist threats emanating from Libya, as well as seeing the GNA as the last viable option for an integrative solution. Furthermore, actors may consider it is in their strategic interest to prevent Russia to increase its influence in Libya, although this may also vary according to the result of French elections for example. Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

2. Is the GNA facing heightened risk that pressure its supporting external actors to increase their level of intervention? 90% (Almost Certain). The GNA lacks the ability to impose its authority, it’s experiencing internal political upheaval (Lewis, Reuters, March 2, 2017), there are violent clashes in its capital (Bahati, AfricaNews, March 15, 2017), and Haftar’s forces control the critical oil facilities in central and eastern Libya (Stephen, The Guardian, March 15, 2017; Al Jazeera, March 14, 2017). Although the GNA faces significant risk, it does have the support of a few local militias, as well as the experienced brigades under the Misrata Military Council (Libya Observer, January 30, 2017)—thus we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

Scenario: Intervention in Support of the GNC

1. Are external actors willing to intervene in support of the GNC? 45% (Improbable). Based on the combined likelihoods of indicators 1a and 1b, this indicator has an overall likelihood of 45%.

1a. Do the GNC’s external supporters have minimal constraints that affect their ability to intervene? 70% (Highly Likely). Based on Turkey’s recent actions in support of the GNA—such as its recent agreement to train GNA military pilots on Turkish helicopters and drones (Libya Herald, February 10, 2017)—as well as focus on Syria and internal matters (Coskun, Karadeniz, and Perry, Reuters, March 9, 2017; Dyomkin and Gumrukcu, Reuters, March 10, 2017; Kingsley, The New York Times, March 15, 2017), Qatar is the remaining external actor that could intervene for the GNC. Although Doha remains involved in Syria (despite its strategy’s “diminishing returns” – Cafiero, LobeLog, December 9, 2016), a significant constraint remains to be seen. Thus, we gave this indicator a 70% likelihood.

1b. Do external actors have national interests in bolstering the GNC? 65% (Likely). Similar to the previous indicator, Turkey appears to have shifted its national interest more in line with the GNA (Libya Herald, February 10, 2017; Libya Herald, February 8, 2017; Nkala, defenceWeb, February 15, 2017), which did affect the likelihood of this indicator. However, the GNC’s pro-Islamist stance continues to align with Qatar vision and foreign policy, thus we gave this indicator a 65% likelihood.

2. Is the GNC experiencing heightened risk (military setbacks, political fragmentation, starting to lose public support, etc.) that pressure its supporting external actors to intervene? 90% (Almost Certain). The GNC has lost political members to the GNA (Hanly, Digital Journal, October 21, 2016), as well as armed and popular support, essentially leaving a remnant of the original government that opposed the COR and General Haftar. After Misrata forces split—with some supporting the GNA, and others vehemently opposed (Ali, Libya Herald, March 20, 2017; Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, February 9, 2017)—the GNC lost much of its armed support. It reportedly has the support of militias under the new “Libyan National Guard” (LNG), mostly comprised of supporting Misrata brigades, some Amazigh militia fighters, and the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) (Libya Herald, February 9, 2017). However, LNG Chief Mahmoud Al-Zigal announced that the group is “not linked to any political party” (Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, February 9, 2017). The GNC’s armed and political presence has also shrunk to parts of Tripoli, where they clash with the GNA’s forces. Notably, militias loyal to the GNA seized the GNC’s headquarters in early March—forcing the GNC’s political administration and military forces to withdraw (Gulf Times, March 15, 2017). Khalifa Ghwell, the leader of the GNC, was reportedly wounded in the exchange (The New York Times, March 15, 2017). Considering these realities on the ground, this indicator received a 90% likelihood.

Determining Likelihood

After calculating the likelihood for each path of scenarios, we found that an increased intervention in support of the Council of Representatives was the most likely of the three options, with a 61% likelihood. This was followed by the probability to see an increased intervention for the Government of National Accord with a 57% likelihood, whilst an intervention on behalf of the General National Congress is assessed as improbable with a 41% probability. The following charts show the likelihood of the various intervention paths that could occur.

After evaluating the likelihood of these intervention paths and comparing intervention to the other primary scenarios, we asses that the likelihood of an increased intervention occurring would be 70% (Likely), if not closer to the Highly Likely range (70%-80%).

In our next post, we shall determine the likelihood of the remaining 2.x scenarios, namely partition and spillover. The narratives for these scenarios are:

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Featured Photo: Russian military helicopters flying in formation  by Andrey Belenko, [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

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