In this article, we shall assess the likelihood of a total victory by the GNC, GNA, and COR. By total victory, we mean a complete victory by one side over its adversaries, which is not imposed from the top down by external powers. In the previous article, we evaluated the likelihood for various spillover scenarios occurring both in the event of partition and without partition.

Now that intervention is already occurring, as we saw in our article on intervention scenarios, the “Total Victory” scenarios are considered sub-scenarios of Scenario 2: Intervention instead of independent scenarios. As such, this will be reflected in the indicators, mapping and likelihoods. Indeed, as events unfolded and intervention took place scenarios 3, which were about “total victory” without intervention, have now become impossible (likelihood = 0).

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We assess that the likelihood of a real victory occurring with intervention support, but without intense post-victory aid, would be in the Highly Unlikely to Improbable range (0%-55%). Of the three possibilities, a victory of the nationalists is the least unlikely.

As a result, what is most likely is the continuation of civil war.

Note: In the following article, we shall use the acronym COR for the Council of Representatives (nationalists), GNC for the General National Congress (Islamists), GNA for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (unity government), and LNA for the Libyan National Army under Haftar’s leadership.

Evaluating the Indicators

In each victory scenario, the first indicator is based on the likelihood of increased intervention determined in our previous post on intervention. The increased intervention likelihood may increase or decrease in this article compared with the original probability assessment, based on the current ground situation that may have changed since the original likelihood calculation. We are actually here in the case of determining likelihood for scenarios while monitoring for warning.

*The likelihood of each indicator below 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, as is happening in this article regarding intervention.

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: A Nationalist Victory: 25%

1. Is intervention in support of the COR likely to increase? 63% (Likely). In our article on intervention, the scenario of increased intervention in support of the COR held a 61% likelihood. Due to the recent loss of Brak Shati airbase in southern Libya, Haftar and the COR are deprived of a strategic site from which to launch further operations in the Fezzan (Libyan Express, May 19, 2017). On May 18, the GNA-affiliated Third Force captured the airbase from forces loyal to Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Considering the importance of this base for the COR’s operations in southern Libya, we increased the likelihood of indicator 2 under Increased Intervention in Support of the COR from 85% to 87%. Because these actions weaken the COR’s ability to capture and control territory, external actors could be concerned for its survival, and thus increase their support. Furthermore, the new French government seems to have announced its support for a united Libyan army that includes General Haftar in its leadership (Reuters, May 18, 2017). Because of these evolutions, the overall likelihood of increased intervention in support of the COR has risen to nearly 63%. Note: Egypt recently launched airstrikes in eastern Libya against terrorist training camps, and Haftar’s forces claimed they were part of the mission—which will be followed by a “ground operation,” (Aboulenein, Reuters, May 26, 2017). However, the indicator noting active intervention for the COR is already 100% (see Scenario 2 Intervention), thus it did not affect this indicator’s change in likelihood.

2. Are other armed groups shifting their support to the COR? 54% (Improbable). In recent months, the Gharyan, Mshait, Obeid, Fwakher, and Drasa tribes have shifted their support to Haftar and the Council of Representatives, mostly in opposition to Libya’s Islamist groups whom they consider the source of instability (Cusack, TheNewArab, March 21, 2017). However, the Zintan military council recently denounced Haftar’s military command of pursuing a strategy opposed to the principles of the 2011 revolution—stressing Zintan’s support for Haftar (Assad, The Libya Observer, March 30, 2017). Furthermore, Haftar lost the support of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which declared its support for the GNA almost immediately upon its formation (Nathan, Politico, August 25, 2016). Thus, we gave this indicator a 60% likelihood. Note: the 54% likelihood is the combined likelihood of 2 and 2A, since indicator 2 is dependent on indicator 2A.

2A. Are the GNC and GNA losing support from armed groups? 90% (Almost Certain). Since last year, the GNC has lost the support of armed groups to the GNA—notably some of the powerful Misrata Brigades (Stratfor, April 2, 2016; Ibrahim, Middle East Eye, March 22, 2017; Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, January 30, 2017). The GNC now retains the support of a few loyal militias, but does not have the armed backing it once did before the GNA was created. Although the GNA has gained the support of armed factions like some of the Misrata Brigades, some GNA-aligned militias like the Nawasi Brigade and Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade have gone on strike in response to comments made by GNA Foreign Minister Mohamed Sayala that recognized Haftar as “the General Commander of the Libyan Army” (Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, May 9, 2017; Najjair, The Libya Observer, May 9, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

3. Is the COR gaining and holding territory? 85% (Almost Certain). In recent months, Haftar’s forces—aligned with the COR—have expanded their territory in the Ras Lanuf region (Stephen, The Guardian, March 15, 2017; Estelle, Critical Threats Map, March 2017; Ristori, Critical Threats Map, May 2017), providing the COR a stronger foothold near Sirte and strategic control of the oil resources and facilities. However, the GNA’s Third Force in southern Libya recently seized the Brak Shati airbase from a faction aligned with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (BBC News, May 19, 2017; Libyan Express, May 19, 2017). Overall, the COR and Haftar’s forces have managed to hold most of their territory and gain new ground. Considering these current realities, we gave this indicator an 85% likelihood.

4. Are Salafist groups unable to reinforce their ranks? 85% (Almost Certain). Since the fall of the Islamic State’s stronghold in Sirte, a number of ISIS militants have migrated to Libya’s southern deserts—operating training camps, attacking soft military targets and civilian infrastructure, and causing disruptions in remote villages (Libya Herald, May 8, 2017; Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, January 19, 2017; Lewis, Reuters, February 10, 2017). However, there is a lack of evidence that points towards an ability to gain a sizeable number of new recruits and take territory as it once did. In northern Libya, Al-Qaeda affiliates do not appear to be growing in numbers, and are in fact losing territory and are under pressure by Haftar’s forces (Estelle, Critical Threats Map, March 2017; Ristori, Critical Threats Map, May 2017; Cusack, TheNewArab, May 9, 2017). Most recently, the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Sharia group announced that it would be dissolving as a result of “heavy losses” that have decimated its leadership structure and fighters (Knecht, Reuters, May 27, 2017). As a result, we gave this indicator an 85% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of a Nationalist Victory

After calculating the likelihood of each indicator, we assess that A Nationalist Victory would be Improbable—between 20% and 55%.

Scenario: An Islamist Victory: <1%

1. Is intervention in support of the GNC likely to increase? 41% (Improbable). Considering the lack of change in these indicators (detailed in Evaluating Likelihoods for Libya—Scenario 2 Intervention), this likelihood remains at 41%.

2. Are other armed groups shifting their support to the GNC? 6% (Highly Unlikely). Although the GNC has retained the support of some Misrata and Tripoli militias (Stratfor, April 2, 2016; Assad, The Libya Observer, May 22, 2017), it has lost the support of other armed factions to the GNA—notably some of the stronger Misrata brigades (Stratfor, April 2, 2016; Ibrahim, Middle East Eye, March 22, 2017; Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, January 30, 2017). With this in mind, we gave this indicator a 10% likelihood. Note: the 6% likelihood is the combined likelihood of 2 and 2A, since indicator 2 is dependent on indicator 2A.

2A. Are the COR and GNA losing support from armed groups? 60% (Likely). Although Haftar and the COR have gained the support of several tribes (Tagba, The North Africa Post, March 22, 2017), their ally in the west—the Zintani militias—are now divided on their support (Bibbo, Al Jazeera, May 18, 2017). Furthermore, the Zintani Military Council has denounced Haftar’s army and military strategy, which is stressing the support it once had for Haftar (Assad, The Libya Observer, March 30, 2017) As detailed in the indicators under a Nationalist Victory scenario, some GNA-aligned militias like the Nawasi Brigade and Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade have gone on strike—leaving their loyalty in a vulnerable state. Misrata’s elders council has also called for the GNA’s expulsion from Tripoli (Assad, The Libya Observer, May 10, 2017). Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 60% likelihood.

3. Is the GNC gaining and holding territory? 10% (Highly Unlikely). In recent months, the GNC’s dwindling forces have lost territorial control—notably in the Tripoli area—and are relegated to small pockets of resistance (Andolsi, Libya Herald, May 5, 2017; Fornaji, Libya Herald, May 3, 2017). Although heavy clashes occurred between GNA and GNC militias in the capital recently (BBC News, May 26, 2017; RT, May 28, 2017), it is yet to be seen whether the GNC gained any territory. GNA forces reportedly took control of al-Hadhba prison (BBC News, May 26, 2017). Considering this significant loss when compared to 2015 and early 2016, we gave this indicator a 10% likelihood.

4. Are Salafist groups unable to reinforce their ranks? 85% (Almost Certain). As detailed in the indicators under a Nationalist Victory, this indicator has an 85% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of an Islamist Victory

After calculating the likelihood of each indicator, we assess that An Islamist Victory would be Highly Unlikely—less than 20%.

Scenario: A GNA Victory: 18%

1. Is intervention in support of the GNA likely to increase? 58% (Likely). In our article on intervention, the scenario of increased intervention in support of the GNA held a 57% likelihood. In recent weeks and after his meeting with GNA Prime Minister Saraj, General Haftar threatened to take Tripoli by force (Ibrahim, The Libya Observer, May 17, 2017). In southern Libya, GNA-aligned forces attacked the LNA-controlled Brak al-Shati airbase—allegedly executing dozens of LNA soldiers (Human Rights Watch, May 21, 2017). Although the GNA claims not to have sanctioned the attack and has suspended its defence minister and the commander of the force that perpetrated the attack, it now appears to not have control over its forces and is now tied to a war crime, which hurts the GNA’s legitimacy. Because these actions weaken the GNA’s legitimacy, external actors could be concerned for its survival, and thus increase their support. Because of these events, we increased the likelihood of indicator 2 under Increased Intervention in Support of the GNA from 90% to 92%. Thus, the overall likelihood of increased intervention in support of the GNA has risen to 58%.

2. Are other armed groups shifting their support to the GNA? 68% (Likely). Over the last year, the GNA has garnered support from Misrata militias, the Petroleum Facilities Guard, the Nawasi Brigade, and the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (Stratfor, April 2, 2016; Nathan, Politico, August 25, 2016; Menas Associates, January 4, 2016; European Council on Foreign Relations)—some of whom had shifted their allegiance from the GNC or COR. However, the GNA Foreign Minister’s comment concerning General Haftar (see indicator 2A under a Nationalist Victory) has shaken the loyalty of two of its militias (Najjair, The Libya Observer, May 9, 2017; Libyan Express, May 9, 2017). Thus, we gave this indicator a 75% likelihood. Note: the 68% likelihood is the combined likelihood of 2 and 2A, since indicator 2 is dependent on indicator 2A.

2A. Are the COR and GNC losing support from armed groups? 90% (Almost Certain). As discussed in the above scenarios of COR and GNC victories, the COR appears to have lost some support from Zintan’s militias (Bibbo, Al Jazeera, May 18, 2017; Assad, The Libya Observer, March 30, 2017), as well as the Petroleum Facilities Guard (Nathan, Politico, August 25, 2016), while the GNC has lost much support from armed groups since the GNA established itself. Considering these realities, we gave this indicator a 90% likelihood.

3. Is the GNA gaining and holding territory? 55% (Improbable/Likely). In March 2017, the Benghazi Defence Brigades seized control of the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil ports and handed them over to the pro-GNA Petroleum Facilities Guard before Haftar’s Libyan National Army recaptured the strategic site (Libyan Express, March 14, 2017). In southern Libya, Misrata’s Third Force—which backs the Government of National Accord—and factions loyal to General Haftar’s coalition have clashed over the strategic Tamanhent and Brak al-Shati airbases. Most recently, the Third Force attacked the LNA-controlled Brak al-Shati airbase, leaving 141 dead (The Guardian, May 19, 2017). Most of the casualties were Haftar’s forces, but many were reportedly shot execution-style (Human Rights Watch, May 21, 2017). The GNA in Tripoli claims not to have ordered the attack, and has suspended its defense minister and the Third Force commander pending an investigation (The Guardian, May 19, 2017). Although the GNA has launched attacks and briefly held strategic sites, it often fails to maintain control of the territory. However, it has managed to consolidate some territory over the last year primarily with the support of Misratan forces—notably by liberating Sirte of Islamic State control (Pack, Al-Monitor, December 14, 2016; Ristori, Critical Threats, May 8, 2017). With these in mind, we gave this indicator a 55% likelihood.

4. Are Salafist groups unable to reinforce their ranks? 85% (Almost Certain). As detailed in the indicators under a Nationalist Victory, this indicator has an 85% likelihood.

Summary: Likelihood of a GNA Victory

After calculating the likelihood of each indicator, we assess that A GNA Victory would be Highly Unlikely—less than 20%.

After evaluating the likelihood of these military victories and comparing them to the other primary scenarios, we assess that the likelihood of a real victory occurring would be in the Highly Unlikely to Improbable range (0%-55%). Of the three possibilities, a victory of the nationalists is the least unlikely.

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Click to access larger image
Click to access larger image

Interestingly, our analysis of the 2A indicators found a Likely to Almost Certain likelihood of the governments losing support from armed groups. With constantly shifting alliances, as well as armed groups threatening to withhold support in pursuit of political aims, we envision further fragmentation among the armed coalitions of each government.

As a result, what is most likely is the continuation of civil war.

In our next article, we shall determine the likelihood of these victories lasting and leading to a nationalist, Islamist, or unified Libyan state.

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Feature Photo: “Anti-Gaddafi rally” by mojomogwai [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

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