Category: Libya

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (9) Fragmentation and International Intervention

This article is the ninth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting the range of possible interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an international intervention that supports a unity government, despite initial fragmentation – a group of scenarios we wrap up here. In this article, we shall focus on scenarios related to the continued fragmentation of the unity government, including interventions that may occur if the unity government fails.

In our scenario, our UN-backed Libyan unity government is unable to mitigate the fragmentation in its political leadership and armed coalition. The scenarios discussed below point out some crucial elements that should be considered: the success or failure of such an intervention will depend heavily on the level of fragmentation, as well as on the international coalition’s willingness to continue its campaign in Libya despite the exacerbation of civil war that could be induced by the intervention itself. The amount of power (across all domains) to apply to the situation and thus the cost incurred to revert fragmentation will be proportional to the intensity and depth of fragmentation. Past a certain threshold, it will be impossible to go back to unity and the international coalition will only be intervening on the side of somehow a new actor in a renewed Libyan civil war.

Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafist will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

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Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.1.2 The International Coalition Launches a Full Intervention after Receiving an Invitation from the Unity Government

Facing a stalemate in ground fighting or a potential breakout of renewed tribal/political tensions within its forces, the unity government decides to invite both air and ground international forces to intervene in Libya. The international coalition thus launches a full intervention that leads to the same results as an international airstrike campaign (Sc 2.1.2.1.1.1). A full intervention, as long as it is properly planned strategically, then carried out, would likely shorten the timeframe for an outcome, considering the better trained and better-equipped international ground forces would hasten the ground conflict. However, the cost of intervention would be significantly higher for contributing countries. A full intervention would likely have a higher chance of success, depending on the level of opposition by the Libyan people. If Libyan opposition is high, and if the intervention strategy is less than efficient, there is the possibility that the full intervention could reignite the fragmentation.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2 The Unity Government Continues to Fragment

Lacking moderate leaders to help mediate the political in-fighting, the unity government continues to fragment. Politicians quickly begin to revert back to their previous political factions that not only create a stalemate for progress, but also bring political factions dangerously close to returning to the remnants of the GNC and COR – which would essentially resurrect the rival powers and destroy the unity government. Seeing the fragmentation of their united leadership, the Libyan people withdraw their support of the government and turn to local political councils or tribes for leadership. This leads then to the pursuit of local and tribal agendas rather than national unification. Furthermore, the political stalemate and return to former alliances persuade many of the groups in the unity government’s armed coalition to withdraw their support and pursue their own objectives.

With the Libyan unity government headed towards collapse, the international community faces two options: intervention in anticipation of government collapse, or no intervention at all (see scenarios below).

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.2.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The number of moderate leaders available to help mediate political fighting. The majority of politicians will likely have strong tribal or political allegiances, which lessens the likelihood of truly moderate leaders being able and willing to mediate political fighting between factions. If the unity government lacks moderate leaders, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The strength, influence and capability in terms of “tribal politics” of the united government leaders. As discussed in “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” tribalism in Libya grows stronger in the absence of the state. Thus, tribal politics can be very influential when the state is fragmenting, as is the case today. If government leaders are highly influenced by tribal politics, the likelihood of continued fragmentation increases.
  3. The tendency for politicians to revert back to previous political factions. Considering the various post-Qaddafi governments, the existence of strong political factions over the years, and the rivalry between GNC and COR politicians, it will likely not take long for politicians to revert back to their previous political factions from the period before a unity government.
  4. The Libyan peoples’ willingness to turn to local councils or tribes for leadership. Considering the statelessness under Qaddafi and the concept of loyalty to tribe first (see Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” April 13, 2015), local councils and tribal leaders have strong influence in Libya. After a series of unsuccessful post-Qaddafi governments, political in-fighting in the unity government will likely cause Libyans to increasingly turn to local councils or tribal leadership – thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario.
  5. The level of fragmentation that causes armed groups to withdraw support. The more the government fragments, the more likely that armed groups will lose confidence in their support, which will cause them to withdraw and pursue their own agenda.
  6. Indicator 3 of sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.1 also acts here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1 The International Coalition Intervenes in Anticipation of Government Collapse

As the government continues to fragment at a dangerous pace and faces impending collapse, the international coalition intervenes in Libya to prevent further failure of the state. The coalition deploys air and ground forces in an offensive against Salafist strongholds, while additional international forces act as a peacekeeping force around the capital to help preserve what is left of the unity government.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of fragmentation of the unity government. The level of fragmentation will play a large role in the international community’s decision on whether to intervene. If the unity government is too far-gone and already collapsing, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. However, if the unity government’s fragmentation is still at a position where it can be reversed over time, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The willingness of external actors to intervene in Libya as a last effort to keep the unity government intact. If external actors consider the unity government’s impending collapse irreversible, they may decide not to commit forces to a Libya intervention. However, if their interests in keeping a central government intact – even if it will require a long-term peacebuilding mission to fix – outweigh the risk of effects from total collapse, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. Indicators 3, 6, 7 of sub-scenario 2.1.1.4 also act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.1 The International Coalition Succeeds Against Salafist Threats, Attempts to Help Rebuild the Government

Considering the impending collapse of the unity government, as well as the added threat of Salafist groups taking advantage of political dysfunction, the international coalition forces work quickly to destroy Salafist capabilities and networks. Massive airpower coupled with strong ground forces soon mitigate or altogether destroy the Salafist threats. With Salafist capabilities degraded, the coalition turns to help rebuild the unity government with a peacebuilding mission (see Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” September 28, 2015).

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The efficiency of the military strategies to destroy Salafist strongholds. The success against Salafist strongholds relies on the efficiency of the air and ground strategies to work in sync against multiple Salafist groups. If international forces get bogged down against various groups, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  2. The level of contributed airpower by international coalition forces. If coalition forces are conducting airstrike campaigns in other operations, they may have difficulty in contributing sufficient airpower to a Libyan intervention that hinges on both air and ground forces. If external actors are unable to shift sufficient aircraft and related resources to a Libyan intervention, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  3. Indicator 6 of sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.1.1 acts here in a similar way.
  4. Indicator 3 of sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.1 acts here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.2 International Intervention Exacerbates Government Fragmentation and Conflict

Due to the international intervention lacking a fully agreed upon invitation, the Libyan people and many government leaders perceive the intervention as illegal and imperialistic. Thus, the intervention exacerbates the political fragmentation, as well as the conflict. Factions begin to actively oppose intervention forces, based on their perception of the intervention. Salafist groups then begin to use the unpopular intervention as propaganda to bolster their forces and support.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of support for Salafist groups in Libya – particularly once intervention is heavily propagandized. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the operational capabilities of Salafist groups in Libya, which could improve their efforts to hinder intervention forces. Furthermore, Salafist groups could foster recruitment from post-Gaddafi marginalized Arab tribal groups, as the Islamic State has done notably around the Sirte area and potentially further south towards Sebha, as well as from other sympathizers as around Tripoli, and Sabratah (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016; Lavoix, The Red Team Analysis Society, May 16, 2016). Salafist groups could also use the intervention for propaganda purposes, which could boost its external support as well.
  2. Indicator 2 of sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.1.1.2 also acts here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.2.1 International Intervention Destroys Salafist Threats, Attempts to Help Stabilize and Rebuild Libya

Despite Salafist propaganda and opposition by the Libyan people, the coalition pushes forward and eventually destroys Salafist strongholds in Libya. Having accomplished their main objective in Libya – destroying Salafist threats to the West – the international coalition then attempts to help stabilize and rebuild the country in a peacebuilding mission (see Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” September 28, 2015). The decision to stay in Libya and ensure its stabilization and rebuilding stems from lessons learned during the post-2011 intervention phase. Is is however a very difficult – and probably long – task considering the opposition of the people and of the factions. From the Libyans’ point of view, the international coalition is an invading force.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.1.2.2 The International Coalition Withdraws its Forces, Back to Civil War

Facing widespread opposition, a dysfunctional government, and protracted conflict, the international coalition decides to withdraw its forces. This scenario thus leads back to civil war.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.1.2.2 The Unity Government Fails – Back to Civil War

Not willing to request international assistance, the unity government continues to fragment as politicians cling to former factions and fail to make any progress. As a result, the unity government loses all public support, and thus loses domestic legitimacy. Not desiring to intervene in the now-collapsing country with no clear exit strategy, no central government in place, and a variety of non-state armed factions, the international community does not intervene in Libya. The government eventually reaches the point of total failure and dissolves. With a power vacuum in place, the country returns to civil war as groups compete for dominance.

Sub-scenario 2.1.2.2 The Unity Government Does Not Fragment, on the Contrary, It Gains Support

This sub-scenario is the international point of view of sub-scenario 1.1.1.2.2 (Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” September 28, 2015), where the unity government receives proper international assistance, but the long road towards stabilization is still fraught with difficulty.

Bibliography

Featured Photo: Soldiers with the 12th Mechanized Brigade Reconnaissance Force about to disembark from a helicopter by Defence Images [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr

United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 13, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?,” The Red Team Analysis Society, September 28, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (8) Intervention for a UN-Backed Government,” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 9, 2016

Dr. Helene Lavoix, “The Islamic State in Libya – When Libyan Tribes Pledge Allegiance to the Khalifah,” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 16, 2016

The Islamic State in Libya – When Libyan Tribes Pledge Allegiance to the Khalifah

The coming Battle for Sirte to defeat the Islamic State in Libya is principally seen from the perspective of the struggle between the U.N.-backed new government supported by some militias including Misrata, and those who refuse that government’s legitimacy, such as nationalist Haftar (e.g. “The scramble for Sirte”, The Economist, 14 May 2016. In the meanwhile, the Islamic State becomes an insignificant threat. Similarly, the situation on the ground, notably the tribes and related politics, are quasi ignored.

Yet, it is crucial to have an understanding of what is happening, which goes beyond a top-down approach, and to consider also the perspective of the enemy, through red team analysis for example, as we are doing here. The consequences for not doing so may be deleterious, notably for companies which do not have the easy choice to “avoid risk” as advised in risk management, i.e. for all those companies bound to a territory located on Libyan ground, be it because of infrastructures, exploitation of resources or because they deliver security advice of a very tactical and local nature nonetheless influenced by larger and more strategic developments. Humanitarian organisations are no less concerned as they need to prepare and deploy on the ground, to say nothing, of course, of Libyan people, which have to live with war.

If proper courses of actions are to be chosen, then a red team approach must be used, the complexity of the terrain must be considered, analysis must be added to mere collection of information and alternative hypotheses must be examined.

tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman
“On the Gates of Misratah” – Wilayat Tarabulus – 12 May

This is what we shall endeavour here, building upon the last article which, seeking to evaluate the Islamic State forces in Libya, started also underlining the importance of the Islamic State’s connection to tribes (see The Islamic State in Libya – Force, Fighters and Tribes). Linkages to the Qadhadhfa tribe outlined potentials in terms of the creation of a truly Libyan component to the Khilafah’s presence in Libya, through the integration of people who were previously members of Gaddafi state’s security apparatus. Meanwhile, they also added, for the Islamic State, potential strategic depth to the south notably towards the town of Sebha, which could then be declined through trade, logistics, and strategic expansion towards and linkages with the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa.

We shall now continue our focus on the Islamic State and tribes. We shall first point out indications that confirm the importance of the tribal connection for the Islamic State in Libya. We shall then enlarge our enquiry to also consider two other tribes besides the Qadhadhfa, the Awlad Sulayman and the Warfalla Tribes, notably pointing out the relationships between the three. Finally, we shall examine threats that could emerge from potential connections between the Islamic State and these three tribes and relate them to events on the ground.

Fighting over Libyan tribes

Interestingly, new indications of the importance of the elements favouring connections between some tribes and the Islamic State have been recently given by the conjunction of a couple of articles and news. The latter stressed either the willingness of ex-Gaddafi supporters to fight against the Islamic State or an Islamic State willingness to kill them. With these assertions, those fighting the Islamic State try to counter and deter any potential support any tribal member could give to the Islamic State.

We thus find that, according to the Libya Herald, in Sirte, the Islamic State has executed an army captain, Ahnaish Qaddafi (“IS continues killings as LNA claims offensive against Sirte ready”, 1 May 2016), reportedly a “leading member of the Qaddadfa tribe”, which would imply that “ISIS is likely to target more Gaddafi loyalists and sympathisers as it fears a new uprising in the town especially if arms make their way to these dissidents in the city”. (Eye On ISIS in Libya, Jihadology, 4 May 2016). Then, according to the International Business Time (William Watkinson, 7 May 2016), “Colonel Gaddafi’s henchmen join the West to purge Isis from North Africa“.  Finally, we learn that “Gaddafi’s widow [is] allowed back to Libya as part of ‘reconciliation’ drive” prompted by a “new program of national reconciliation” (Colin Freeman, The Telegraph, 9 May 2016).

tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman

The Islamic State answer was to publish a psyops product (see above and below) showing elders and leaders of the Qadhadhfa, the Awlad Sulayman (or Awlad Sulaiman) and the Warfalla tribes pledging allegiance (bay’ah) to al-Baghdadi (Photo report, Wilayat Tarabulus media, 8 May 2016; @wellesbien, 8 May tweet; @Libyen_Insider, 9 May tweet).

tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman

Considering what we saw previously, notably the findings of the U.N. “Final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011)” (S/2016/209 9 March 2016) indicating notably the cooptation of members of the Qadhadhfa tribe within the Islamic State, these are indications of a psyops battle being fought around and for the loyalty of and support by members of Gaddafi security apparatus from the U.N.-backed government’s and its supporters’ point of view, for allegiance (bay’ah) by these three tribes from the Islamic State’s perspective. Considering the tribal characteristics of Libya, both perspectives are congruent.

This struggle for influence also shows the crucial importance of securing tribal support in the battle against the Islamic State in Libya, and more generally for any operation in Libya, including by private and corporate actors, all the more so in the complex context of the war.

Towards a revisited al-Suff al-Fugi [al-Fuqhi] (Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman and Warfalla Tribes)?

Against the backdrop of the struggle for this tribal “support” (pledging bay’ah is more than support), considering the Islamic State new psyops product, we do not only have to consider members or families of the Qadhadhfa tribe but also two other tribes, the Awlad Sulayman (or Awlad Sulaiman) and the Warfalla.

The Islamic State’s statement regarding bay’ah pledged by the Awlad Sulayman’s elders may appear as strange at first glance, as Sirte was meant to be captured partly from them (U.N. report, ibid., par. 57).

Yet, if we look back to the recent history of Libya, we find that “Qaddafi drew his strongest supporters from his own tribe, the Qadadfa, and many of its traditional tribal allies which once composed the Saff Awlad Sulayman confederation” (Bell and Witter, “Roots of Rebellion: Part I,” Institute for the Study of War, September 2011). According to Ali Abdullatif Ahmidain, during the 19th century, “this tribal confederation [the tribal suff of the interior, al-Fugi] included the four clans of the Awlad Sulayman and the Gadaddfa, the Warfalla, and the population of the Hunn-Waddan oases of Waddan and Hunn” (The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization, and Resistance,  1994, 2009, pp. 53-54). It was mainly led up to 1927 by the Awlad Sulayman tribe (ibid.).

Thus the cooptation by the Islamic State of some members of the Qadhadhfa, as seen, may have eased association with some members of the Awlad Sulayman – and of the Warfalla – considering past alliances.

What we may be witnessing is an attempt by the Islamic State to recreate the kind of ancestral tribal alliances that allowed Gaddafi to remain in power and to develop a polity, itself grounded into much older Libyan political dynamics.

We should not forget, however the challenges related to such an endeavour. For example, the Awlad Sulayman, ruling notably over Sebha, was the leading tribe until the advent of Gaddafi (John Oakes, “Libya – Tribes and Tribulations“, Berenice Stories, March 2014). Gaddafi, while also integrating it, nonetheless favoured his own tribe, the Qadhadhfa (Ibid.). As a result, attempts to reassert past power by the Awald Sulayman may still exist, which could mean that only lukewarm or facade support may be given.

As far as the Warfalla is concerned, this very large tribe counts more than 1 million people and is composed of more than 50 sub-tribes (Bell and Witter, “Roots of Rebellion”, ibid., 18). It is thus most unlikely to act as a unique body. For example, Bell and Witter emphasise that the Warfalla “often aligned with the Qadadfa, and thus Qaddafi, due to blood ties, but the relationship is more than kinship. The Warfalla and the Qadadfa are long-established military allies” (Ibid.). Yet, in 2011 during the civil war against Gaddafi, some Warfalla defected (Arturo Varvelli, “The role of tribal dynamics in the Libyan future“, ISPI Analysis No. 172, May 2013, p.7). This is an instance of the variety of alignments and behaviour one may find within one tribe.

Nonetheless, Varvelli also underlines that “In post-Gaddafi Libya, some tribes – such as the Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Warshafana, Tarhouna, Asabia and Mashashiya – are threatened by the revolutionary militias or suffer exclusion in the new political order” (ibid.), which implies that not most Warfalla did not defect. Indeed, many of the Warfalla, chiefly among them those in Bani Walid, remained faithful to Gaddafi, and suffered afterwards at the hand of the winning factions and tribes, first among them their arch-enemy the Misratans  (Peter Cole, “Bani Walid: Loyalism in a Time of Revolution”, 2015). Then, facing both state collapse, isolation and reprisal, they fell back on the old tribal identities and notably revived the old idea of “al-Suff al-Fuqhi” (al-Fugi) (Ibid., 286).

What we see here outlined is that some Warfalla, as we detailed previously for the Qadhadhfa (see Force, Fighters and Tribes), may find interest in links with the Islamic State, which would then capitalise on both the destruction of Gaddafi Libya with the support of NATO and feelings of injustice and alienation afterwards. Thus some of the Warfalla may be neutral or sympathetic to the aims of the Islamic State, while others may not.

Meanwhile, even the Qadhadhfa tribe is composed of 6 sub-tribes and thus sub-tribes – or families within them – may choose different paths.

We thus have older and deeper tribal identities and alliances which were revived before the Islamic State’s declaration of the Khilafah, mixed with at least a modicum of feeling of “Libyan-ness”, which remains and is expressed mainly as rejection of foreign intervention (note that the insistence on Tunisian, Chadian or any non-Libyan identity of Islamic State’s fighters is an effort at leveraging this feeling, further research and development on what it means to be foreign, from a Libyan point of view is needed here). The two can now meet and coalesce with the Khilafah’s objective in Libya, whilst inner feuds as well as sub-tribes’ and families’ independence may, on the contrary, play against such a revival in support of the Islamic State.

We should thus consider the Islamic State’s probable aim to embed itself within and link with a renewed al-suff al-Fugi as a dangerous emerging potentiality to monitor and not as an already fully actualized situation. Even if the links forged were already strong, considering the fluid character of tribal politics, we would need to monitor this tribal aspect closely.

Potential Threats in al-suff al-Fugi linkages with the Islamic State

What are thus the new threats outlined by the latest psyops product of wilayat Tarabulus, i.e. potentialities stemming not only from the linkages with and bay’ah by the Qadhadhfa, but also by some sub-tribes of the Awald Sulayman and of the Warfalla, and can we link them to events on the ground?

Keeping the road to the west and southwest opened while protecting Sirte western flank … and expanding?

If we look at the map depicting the implantation of tribes we see that the area south of Misrata and west from Sirte is home to the Warfalla.

tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman
Distribution of major tribes in Libya by Giacomo Goldkorn, March, 18th, 2015, Geopolitical Atlas (click map to access geopoliticalatlas.org) – Sources: Libyan tribal system, Fergiani, – 09/22/2011.

We thus find a convergence, in the absence of direct evidence besides the Islamic State photos, between the early May 2016 Islamic State’s breakthrough to the west of Sirte, against Misrata, and the area under Warfalla rule.

On 5 and 6 May, the Islamic State moved west against Misrata and took the crossroad of Abu Grein (Abu Grain) as well as six other town and villages around the area (Abu Nujaym, Wadi Zamzam, Al Balgha, Al Washka, Wadi Bey and Al Buwirat (Fezzan.com, 7 May 2016; Libya’s Channel, 7 May;  “Weekly Eye on ISIS in Libya Update”, Jihadology.net, 10 May 2016), as shown on the detailed map (by @ArtRosinski updated 13 May) below:

map, ISIS west expansion libya, tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman
Islamic State Western expansion 5 to 13 May 2016. Click on image to access large original file in HD. By @ArtRosinski

At the time of writing, fighting continues between Misrata and the Islamic State. On 12 May 2016, we had “clashes between #Misrata forces and #ISIS near the Sadada checkpoint” (@alwasatengnews, 12 May tweet), with vehicles and weapons being reportedly seized from the Islamic State by the 604th infantry (@Chief_MarshallR, 12 May tweet), forcing them to retreat towards Boukran (@libyaalaan, 12 May tweet). On 13 May, Misrata forces would have captured fifteen fighters of the Islamic State (Libya Akhbar). Meanwhile, Libya Dawn claims it has “performed more than 40 airstrikes in the vicinity of #Abugrein area” since 8 May (@Arn_Del, 12 May tweet) and air strikes would be ongoing (@Oded121351 12 May tweet).   

On 15 May, some forces ofLibya Dawn were still reportedly moving towards Abu Grein ((@Chief_MarshallR, 15 May tweet), and on 16 May 2016 the areas previously seized by the Islamic State were apparently still under its control.

We are not here in a “hit and run” context but in one where the Islamic State seeks to assert control, while being on the offensive. The map (by @Libyen_Insider) depicting the various forces in Libya thus now looks as below for 5 May, to which should be added the Islamic State move further west as depicted on the area map above:

map, libya 5 may war,
Map of the War in Libya by @Libyen_Insider – Click to access original map

Or, alternatively, as below, as for 13 May ( @ArtRosinski): The Islamic State corridor to the south depicted here seems to be much more in line with the pledge given by the three tribes as well as with the known move of fighters and weapons from the south through Sebha (see Force, Fighters and Tribes).

map IS all corridor south, map Islamic State Libya 13 May
Map of the war in Libya, situation by 13 May 2016, enlarged from the small map of the “Islamic State Western expansion 5 to 13 May 2016”. by @ArtRosinski

These Islamic State western attacks take place as the uncoordinated offensive against the Islamic State in Sirte is imminent, the new UN-backed government being about to attack from the west, with and through Misrata (e.g. TRTWorld, Reuters, “Libya prepares military operation on DAESH stronghold“, 11 May 2016), while the army of nationalist Haftar (not recognising the legitimacy of the U.N. backed government) is marching on Sirte from the east along the coast and from the southeast through Zalla (Libya’s Channel, “Haftar orders army to move on IS-held Sirte, clashes in Zalla“, 4 May 2016).

sirte deserted at night, night in Sirte, Sirte, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, offensive sirte
Sirte deserted at night – 12 May 2016 – by @mohamed7elmahde

In this framework, and considering the Islamic State is certainly preparing itself to sustain a siege in Sirte, witness the refugees leaving the city and report of increased defences (Jamahiriya News Agency, 9 May 2016; TRTWorld, Reuters, Ibid; “Weekly Eye on ISIS”, Ibid.), the surprise attack to the west is probably a way to protect the western flank of the city, as well as to keep opened the road to the southwest, should a retreat be necessary. However planning for all options, including a retreat, is not the same as choosing to leave Sirte for the south as best strategic option, nor as a deliberate choice to abandon Libya, as argued by Emily Estelle, who states: “ISIS is laying the groundwork to abandon Sirte and will then pursue an alternate course of action to continue its campaign in North Africa without its Libyan stronghold.” (“ISIS’s Courses of Action – Out of Sirte“, Critical Threats, April 29, 2016).

Indeed the new territory captured by the Islamic State, added to the fact it is in Warfalla territory may also outline other possibilities. We should note here that the Islamic State wilayat Tarabulus psyops video stressing the support of the Warfalla was published on 8 May 2016, thus after the operation around Abu Grein took place. Although we do not know how much coercion and how much influence and cooptation could have been exerted, it is nonetheless likely that some results in terms of tribal politics were achieved with some Warfalla sub-tribes – or families, as shows the pledge of bay’ah and without which hold on an area would be quite impossible.

Two factors may be operative here. First, the deep-seated enmity between Misrata and the Warfalla may strongly be playing (Cole, Ibid.; Jon Mitchell, Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3) (Toubou and Arab Tribes), 11 May 2015, RTAS; Oakes, Ibid). Second, The UN-backed character of the new GNA, added to covert support already given by the U.S., U.K. and France, are likely to enhance the perception of the U.N.-backed government as linked to foreign invaders (note that a few U.S. forces would be stationed in Misrata Missy Ryan, “U.S. establishes Libyan outposts with eye toward offensive against Islamic State“, Washington Post, 12 May 2016; see also Chris Stephen, “Secret US mission in Libya revealed after air force posted pictures“, The Guardian, 17 December 2015; Reuters, “French special forces waging ‘secret war’ in Libya: report“, 24 February 2016). This refusal of foreign intervention is most probably a very important aspect for the Warfalla,  as the tribe was vocal in 2012  to counter a GNC seen as the puppet of NATO (e.g. Alexandra Valient, “The Warfalla Tribe Are Leading The Revolt Against NATO’s Occupation ForcesLibya 360, 18 Oct 2012). Indeed the President of the Social Council of the tribes Warfalla in independently minded Bani Walid, in a recent interview, stresses he “has no communication with these [the three] governments”. However, he was also there describing the dire situation of the people displaced because of “Daesh”, which is far from full support (Jamahiriya News Agency, Ibid. 9 May 2016).

As a result, the current ability to remain in Warfalla territory probably signals not only the intention to fight as much as possible to “remain and expand” – to use the Islamic State motto, but also an enhanced ability of the Islamic State to do so, even if the latter depends also upon a host of other factors.

Short of unknown elements and black swans events (for an explanation of what are Black Swans events and of Taleb’s related book see H. Lavoix, “Taleb’s Black Swans: The End Of Foresight?“, RTAS, 21 Jan 2013), always possible especially at war, and without forgetting the damage airpower may cause, the Warfalla will most probably not help Misratans, and may see their interest in “allowing” the Islamic State to at least try stopping Misratans and the U.N.-backed government to obtain a too easy victory. The Islamic State may lose again Abu Grein and surrounding villages, but it will be because of a successful Misratan counter-offensive. It will change nothing to the fact that they have been able, however briefly, to start settling in the area.

At worst, the Warfalla may also, with time, see in an assertive Khilafah an opportunity to participate in and promote a revived al-Suff al-Fugi. The involvement and position of the Qadhadhfa and of the Awald Sulayman would most probably be also crucial here. We could even wonder if the al-Suff al Fugi could not become the representative of the Khilafah in Libya, ruling over its wilayat. In that case, we would be seeing not the premises of a final relatively rapid defeat of the Islamic State, notably qua state in Libya, but the some new steps of an expansion to the west and southwest.

map al naba Libya, Islamic State western expansion Libya
The Islamic State shows its new expansion to the west with an article in al-Naba (weekly newsletter) #30 – 10 May 2016 – p.5 Click to access the newsletter (in Arabic) on Jihadology.

As a result, the already existing sleeper cells in the west, the training camps in Sabratha and the road to and from Tunisia (see U.N. report, ibid.) – and potentially Algeria – would all take renewed tactical, operational and strategic values. Tripoli, as well as the U.N.-backed government would be in a more precarious position – despite alleged success in eradicating Islamic State’s sleeper cell in Tripoli, as on 14 May (“Tripoli IS terror cell planning operations, captured by Rada“, Libya Herald).  Potentially intervening powers would hence be placed into a conundrum that would need to be handled with high tribal political savvy.

The risks entailed are too high, even if the Islamic State is defeated in Abu Grein, and too fraught with strategic and operational consequences in terms of decisions for all actors, not to consider the possible range of alternatives and not to monitor also in depth this tribal perspective.

Connection to the Hunn-Waddan oases, a key to Libya?

Another very interesting aspect of the al-suff al-Fugi is that it includes or is related, as we saw above, to the population of the Hunn-Waddan (Houn-Waddan) oases (see map below), part of al-Jufra region.

Hunn-Waddan oases, tribes allegiance, gates of misratah, Misrata, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya, Tribes, pledge, bay'ah, Warfalla, Qadhadhfa, Awlad Sulayman
Click to access Google maps

Needless to say, obtaining connections to oases is absolutely crucial in a desert country. Furthermore, one may observe that the Hunn-Waddan oases are critically located almost in the center of Libya. It is a strategic place holding the south and Sebha, the west through Abu Grein and Ash Shawrif, the east though Zalla (Zillah), and the center north with Sirte.

It may indeed not be by complete chance that, historically, the tribes of the al-suff al-Fugi have consistently played such a crucial military role (Ahmida, Ibid; Cole, ibid.).

We shall not come back here to the importance of Sebha (see Force, Fighters and Tribes), but nonetheless shall underline that linkages between the Islamic State and the Awlad Sulayman, traditionally “ruling” over Sebha may only fortify the capabilities of the Khilafah to benefit from Sebha.

We saw above the importance of Abu Grein and the road to the West. The connection to the west is also reinforced by the fact that on 6 May, the Islamic State “seized governmental buildings in Abu Nujaym” (@Chief_MarshallR, 7 May tweet). Abu Nujaym is not so much located south of Sirte as on the road between Abu Grein and Waddan.

Now, regarding the defence of Sirte, the advantages of tribal connections to the oases, notably Waddan, are strategic. Indeed, Haftar’s armies are also advancing through the southern road. On 3 May 2016 they were reportedly in Zalla. That said, the Islamic State may also be protected by the fractious character of the Libyan war, as Haftar’s forces were attacked by “Forces loyal to Ziyad Belaam, a senior commander” allied with “Benghazi’s Revolutionaries Shura Council” itself “allied with Libya Dawn”, while Misratan air force also attacked them, the two sides then sending reinforcements to fight each other (Libya Channel, 4 May 2016). Nonetheless, rumours of a 6 May Islamic State’s attack “on a checkpoint in Jufra, which was also the sight of clashes between Dawn affiliated groups and the Libyan army, under the orders of Colonel Khalifa Haftar, the day before” were reported (Libya Channel, 7 May 2016). An attack West of Waddan was also denied (Abdulkarim Alduwayni, Fezzan Libya, 7 May), which may accredit the fact it was only a rumour, assuming the two are the same attack. Fear is not only creeping in, but also these rumors may prefigure the possibility to see an enhanced capability by the Islamic State to cut off retreat or arrival of reinforcement from the east, and ultimately a capacity to move towards the east, should, of course, the connection to the al-suff al-Fugi develop and be strengthened.

The fate of the Islamic State in Libya may very well be also in the hands of the Qadhadhfa, the Awlad Sulayman and the Warfalla Tribes. Should it be defeated and its capabilities degraded towards “hit and run” and “terrorist attacks” operations, the potential key role of these three tribes should be noted and remembered, as vital for a still hypothetic return to peace in Libya.

Featured image: from the photo report the pledge of allegiance of Tribes– Wilayat Tarabulus, 8 May 2016.

About the author: Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.


Ali Abdullatif Ahmida. The Making of Modern Libya: State Formation, Colonization and Resistance, 1830–1932. By  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994 [2009].

Peter Cole, “Bani Walid: Loyalism in a Time of Revolution”, in The Libyan Revolution and Its Aftermath, e.d Peter Cole, Brian McQuinn, Oxford University Press, 2015.

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (8) Intervention for a UN-backed Government

This article is the eighth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an international intervention that started to support the nationalist side of the conflict, but encountered difficulties in partnering with Libyan factions on the ground, as well as an air-strike-only campaign by the international coalition that abandoned the strategy of partnering with a spectrum of Libyan groups – a group of scenarios we wrap up here.

In this article, we shall focus on scenarios related to an intervention that supports a UN-backed Libyan unity government, a case very similar to what is currently taking shape with the Government of National Accord.

In our scenario, our UN-backed Libyan unity government experiences some fragmentation and requests international air support. The scenarios discussed below point out some crucial elements that should be considered: the success or failure of such an intervention will depend heavily on Libyans’ perception of international intervention, as well as on the international coalition’s willingness to continue its air campaign despite the exacerbation of civil war that could be induced by the intervention itself. The amount of power (across all domains) to apply to the situation and thus the cost incurred to revert fragmentation will be proportional to the intensity and depth of fragmentation. Past a certain threshold, it will be impossible to go back to unity and the international coalition will only be intervening on the side of somehow a new actor in a renewed Libyan civil war. Continue reading Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (8) Intervention for a UN-backed Government

The Islamic State in Libya – Force, Fighters and Tribes

What is the current state of play for the Islamic State in Libya, and, most importantly, how can it evolve? The question is increasingly relevant considering the rising possibility of an international intervention in Libya against the Islamic State, a complex matter considering notably the questioned domestic legitimacy of the new U.N.-prompted Government of National Authority (GNA) (e.g. APA, “Libya unity gov’t approval postponed indefinitely“, 19 April 2016), despite strong pressure imposed on Libyans to recognise it, such as the U.S. President “Executive Order — Blocking Property And Suspending Entry Into The United States Of Persons Contributing To The Situation In Libya” (White House, 19 April 2016).

cyrenaica, al-Barqah, Islamic State, Liyan war, Islamic State forces in Libya
Advertising image for the Islamic state psyops video “The Raid of Shaykh Abū al-Mughīrah al-Qaḥṭānī – Wilāyat al-Barqah” – 14 Feb 2016

Is the Islamic State’s threat in Libya hyped and “not a realistic fallback” for a Khilafah, furthermore pummelled in Mesopotamia, as argued by Geoff Porter (“How Realistic Is Libya As An Islamic State “Fallback”?”, CTC Sentinel, 17 March 2016)? Or, on the contrary, as stated by the Council of the European Union “Council conclusions on Libya” (18 April 2016), are we faced with the “growing threat of terrorism including by Daesh and affiliates”, which echoes the concern expressed in the U.N. “Final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011)” (S/2016/209 9 March 2016), according to which “The political and security vacuum has been further exploited by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has significantly expanded its control over territory”? Should we believe, the deputy Prime Minister designate Musa al-Koni of the GNA when he warned that the Islamic State “could take over two-thirds of the country” (BBC News, 18 April 2016), or is this estimate not only motivated by genuine fear of a worst case scenario but also by a wish to ensure continuous support of the proponents of international intervention?

Depending on the answer to this question the range of impacts, as well as their durations, will vary, as, for example, some of the petroleum companies still operating in Libya had to further evacuate three fields for fear of attacks by the Islamic State, while the problems of migrants, not only to Europe but also within Libya does not relent (Reuters, 10 April 2016, Fezzan Libya, 10 April 2015; Ibrahim Hiba, “The danger coming from the West“, Fezzan Libya, 24 April 2015.

Sirte Drone
Sirte, image taken by a drone, from Islamic State psyops video “Of their Goods, take Alms”, Wilāyat Ṭarābulus”, 27 February 2016

We are dealing here, as so often lately, with the uncertainties of the future, furthermore shrouded by the fog of war. It would thus be unrealistic to expect a clear-cut, black and white, easy answer. Nonetheless, we may aim at improving our estimates, stressing notably dynamics and weak signals. We shall here focus on the Islamic State forces in Libya. After reviewing the existing quantitative assessments of Islamic State fighters in Libya, we shall dive deeper into what could be the overall human strength of the Islamic State in Libya. Considering the Islamic State’s state-building component, we shall thus look at the population under the Khilafah’s rule, at the way inhabitants are coerced and coopted and, as a result, at the tribal links the Islamic State is potentially forging. Finally, using the geographical distribution of tribes, we shall stress potential consequences in terms of use of foreign fighters and trade for the Islamic State in Libya.

A still relatively small yet rising force despite setbacks

In November 2014, when Derna fell, it was estimated that the Islamic State counted 800 fighters, operating “half a dozen camps on the outskirts of the town, as well as larger facilities in the nearby Green Mountains, where fighters from across North Africa  [were] are being trained”, including 300 fighters from the al-Battar Brigade (CNN, 18 Nov 2014). The latter had returned during Spring 2014 from fighting in Syria, called themselves the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC) and had pledged allegiance to the Khalifah in September (Wehrey and Ala’ Alrababa’h, “Rising Out of Chaos: The Islamic State in Libya”Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 5 March 2015).

122 marauding camp sc
From photo report “Sheikh Abu Al-Qahtani training camp – accepted by God” Wilāyat al-Barqah, 13 April 2016

In 2016, the estimates of the Islamic State forces vary between 2000-3000 for “a U.N estimate” (Tribune de Genève, 14 Dec 2015), 3000 for the French Minister of Defence (Atlantico, 8 Feb 2016), 3000-6000 (Stars and Stripes, 19 Feb 2016) or 3250-6500 for U.S. military intelligence sources (CNN, 4 Feb 2016) to 10000 fighters, the latter figure, however, according to unnamed and unspecified French sources quoted by Issandr El Amrani (How Much of Libya Does the Islamic State Control?“, Foreign Policy, 18 Feb 2016 – note that Porter, Ibid, misquote El-Amrani, referring to 12000 fighters).

If we compare briefly these figures with past estimates for other forces existing then on the Libyan ground, focusing on those forces supporting the nationalist or non-Islamist Tobruk based House or Council of Representatives, we have 18000-21000 men for the Petroleum Facilities Guard, out of which 2000 are militarily trained, 20000 fighters for the Cyrenaica Protection Force, 20000 soldiers for the Libyan army, 5000 commandos for Al-Saiqa (Special Forces), 2000 men for the Al-Sawaiq Brigade, up to 18000 well-armed fighters for the Zintani-composed al-Qaqa Brigade (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces -1“, RTAS, Oct 2014), and up to 6000 fighters for Haftar’s Libyan National Army, etc. (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces -2“, RTAS).

reading an naba2 scThe Islamic State forces are thus still a small faction even though obviously determined. Considering the fractious landscape of the war in Libya, this is, nevertheless, a force that can wreak considerable damage, and use not only hit and run types of operations but also conquering then defensive ones, aiming at state-building. Such conquering and defensive operations are exemplified first in Derna, where the Islamic state lost full control of the city in June  2015, then was most probably fully expelled by the al-Qaeda linked Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) on 21 April 2016 (BBC News, Islamic State ‘forced out’ of key Libyan city of Derna, 21 April 2016; Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic State fighters retreat from bases outside Derna, Libya“, the Long War Journal, 20 April 2016). We then have the example of Sirte and its nearby surrounding territory, including Bin Jawad, which is the only territory currently fully held by the Islamic State (Ibid., Libya Prospects, “IS forces Sirte inhabitants to attend Sharia lessons“, 30 March 2016; U.N. Final report, ibid.; Thomas Joscelyn, “Islamic State releases photos from captured Libyan town of Bin Jawad“, the Long War Journal, 7 January 2016).

Despite the presence of the Islamic State forces on the Libyan territory, the latest spat of defeats for the Islamic State, in Derna, as seen, or in Ajdabiya then Benghazi, this time against the nationalist forces of the Tobruk government (Thomson Reuters, “Libyan National Army claims ISIS pushed out of Ajdabiya, parts of Benghazi“, 21 Feb 2016; Euronews, “Libya’s eastern army gains ground in Benghazi“, 20 April 2016), could signal the beginning of the end for the Islamic State. The Islamic State forces would thus have reached their apex and, defeats leading to loss of appeal, we would start to see a declining yet dangerous threat.

If this scenario is possible, we are under the fog of war and, however uncertain, the potential exists within the current situation for another less optimistic scenario, as we shall now see.

Beyond fighters’ numbers: population and quality of fighters

Because the Islamic State aims at state-building and not only at attacking and wounding a foe, to fully evaluate the Islamic State’s forces and threat we also need to consider the population that is subjected to its rule. Indeed, it is out of this population that the Islamic State will extract part of the resources needed for its sustenance agric14 sc– besides the current tropism, oil is not the only resource and wealth available to political actors* – potentially recruit new fighters, as well as meet challenges that could lead to defeat or reinforcement, as exemplified in both Derna and Sirte with defeat in the first case and “successful repression”  – i.e. not leading to demise and loss of territory – in the second (see below).

Wielding coercion and cooptation

It is currently considered that the present entrenchment of the Islamic State in Sirte stems from the latter’s capacity to ally with, coopt and coerce the Qadhadhfa tribe, including recruiting young fighters among them (U.N. Final report, ibid: par. 57 to 60).

Both cooptation and coercion are two crucial elements of state-building and governance, and one would be very naive and ignorant of history and political dynamics to ignore these components. However unpalatable, notably to some current strands of ideology in the West, what makes the difference between a successful use of these fundamental instruments of political authorities’ power is the way these tools are exerted i.e. following historically constructed norms and belief-systems or not (Moore, B., Injustice: Social bases of Obedience and Revolt, London: Macmillan, 1978), as well as the efficiency of repression, as explained by Andrew Turton in his work on Thailand and everyday politics (according to Turton, we often tend to underestimate the power of coercion and violence).

Derna presents us with an instance of a use of violence by the Islamic State perceived as illegitimate when the Islamic State did not have the strength to face the consequences of the consequent uprising: following the assassination of the local leader of the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, the “Mujahedeen Shura Council of Derna declared jihad” on the Islamic State, which led to the loss of control of the city by the Islamic State in June 2015 (e.g. “ISIS Loses Libyan Stronghold“, ISW, Jun 24, 2015), and ultimately to the current ousting from the city (see above).

On the contrary, in Sirte, in August 2015, the Islamic State managed to repress a rebellion that followed the killing of an Imam of the Furjan Tribe, killing more than 50 members of the tribe (“IS detains elders from Al-Furjan tribe“, Libyaprospect, 12 April 2016; U.N. Final report). No further uprising followed. As a result, the Islamic State’s control over Sirte was likely strengthened.

However, one may not rule by the sword alone, hence also the need for cooptation, besides other crucial dimensions of governance. We find such an instance with a recent Shari’ah course conducted by the Islamic State in Sirte, and concluded by a large “graduation ceremony” publicised through a photo report (Photo report Wilayat Tarabulus, “Graduation Ceremony in Sirte”, 18 April 2016; see sirte graduation105 scexplanation on the type of propaganda or psyops in An Updated Guide to the Islamic State Psyops, 18 April 2016). The course would have reached out to more than 4000 people and some cash rewards would reportedly have been used as award for the best students (Jason Pack, “Weekly Eye on ISIS in Libya Update – April 20, 2016“, Jihadology.net). This cash reward may be seen as an example of cooptation.

What appears also as most striking during this ceremony, although one should not discount a specific choice of timing and images by the photographer, is that people laugh.** Indeed, in photographs and videos of people subjected to the rule of the Islamic State, notably in Mesopotamia, the emotions shown by the faces and especially the eyes of the people (not the fighters but the “subjects”) photographed are often hidden fear or resignation. If a group, including children, is shown rejoicing, an attentive examination tends to always find a grown-up looking away, showing uncertainty or being plainly afraid. Here, on 2 pictures, people laugh, and most probably not out of convenience or embarrassment. Although one definitely needs to remain cautious here, all the more so that one instance of “negative emotion” at least can be found in a past Islamic State video (“And What Is To Come Will Be More Devastating and Bitter – Wilāyat Ṭarābulus”, 26 March 2016), this may be a weak signal indicating that the Islamic State’s rule in Sirte would be relatively less heavy to bear for citizens, despite the Furjan repression mentioned above and, of course, the usual use of executions (e.g. Islamic State psyops video, “To Establish the Religion – Wilāyat Ṭarābulus”, 30 March 2016, Jihadology.net; Pack, ibid.).

night in sirte, Sirte, islamic State, war, Libya, war in Libya
Islamic State Wilayat Tarabulus, Photo “Night Portrait of a street in the city of Sirte” – 13 April 2016

We may thus estimate that the Islamic State has possibly learned from its mis-governance in Derna and is possibly improving the way it handles coercion and cooptation. Should this hypothesis and evaluation be correct, then the potential to see the Islamic State benefitting from its state-building in Sirte is enhanced. As a result, it would also be more likely to use successfully the tribal connections thus created to move forward, as we shall now see. As a consequence, the potential threat the Islamic State represents in the short to medium or even long-term – should no proper action be taken – would also increase.

Tribal Connections

Although we should not over-simplify tribal connections (families and sub-tribes may feud within one tribe, for example), the importance of tribal relationships in Libya should also not be underestimated (see Jon Mitchell, War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War, 13 April 2015 and Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3) (Toubou and Arab Tribes), 11 May 2015, RTAS).

tribes, Libya, Islamic State
Distribution of major tribes in Libya by Giacomo Goldkorn, March, 18th, 2015, Geopolitical Atlas (click map to access geopoliticalatlas.org) – Sources: Libyan tribal system, Fergiani, – 09/22/2011.

The Qadhadhfa, an Arab tribe, was the tribe of Muammar Gaddafi and its estrangement from the new post-Gaddafi Libya is most probably instrumental in its attitude to the Islamic State (U.N. Final report, ibid; Mitchell, Ibid.). The Qadhadhfa would count around 100.000 people (Bell and Witter, “Roots of Rebellion: Part I,” Institute for the Study of War, September 2011), even if most probably not all members react similarly to the Islamic State. The Qadhadhfa is present not only in Sirte but also, as shown on the map above, in the region of Sehba, one of the two major southern nodes, with Ghat, for the various smuggling routes in and out of Libya (Norwegian Center for Global Analysis (NGCA) and Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Libya: Criminal economies and terrorist financing in the trans-Sahara, May 2015).

Thus, short of major mis-governance (see above), the Islamic State may count on economic activity generated by the members of this tribe and related taxes first, and second on a level of support ranging from diplomacy and absence of hostility to more active support, such as facilitation of transactions including movement, logistics and trade, up to the recruitment of fighters and participation in administrative, police and security tasks. The involvement of the Qadhadhfa in the Gaddafi administration may also be an asset in terms of skills for the Islamic State.

Indeed, the U.N. final report underlines that “It [ISIL] has also recruited military officers from the former regime” (par 57). As we also know that fighters were recruited not only from the Qadhadhfa, but also from the Magharba tribe (Ibid.), and that the Magharba was another tribe previously supporting Gaddafi (Cherif Bassiouni, ed. Libya: From Repression to Revolution, 2013, p. xlv), while Qadhadhfa and some members of the Magharba held key positions in the security apparatus of the Gaddafi regime (ibid.), then what we see emerging is a genuinely Libyan component of the Islamic State’s administrative and security apparatus for wilayat Tarabulus, skilled and experienced as far as the Libyan idiosyncrasies are concerned.

Furthermore, we face a phenomenon that is not dissimilar to what happened in Iraq, with the inclusion of former Saddam Hussein security officers within the Islamic State’s security apparatus (e.g.Christoph Reuter, “The Terror Strategist: Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State“, Der Spiegel, 18 April 2015). The ease with which a similar narrative can be created for the two experiences, Libyan and Iraqi, as well as most probably the existence of comparable feelings of injustice for both the Libyan and Iraqi officers, may only favour the inclusion of Libyans within the Islamic State system, as well as create feelings of shared fate and common enemies.

As a result, the likelihood to see a rapid and full decline of the Islamic State in Libya decreases.  On the contrary, the overall threat is likely enhanced, despite defeats.

We should also note that the Magharba’s territory lies from the south of Benghazi to Sirte (Bell and Witter, Ibid; see map above), and also has a share in the oasis town of Jalo (“Libya – The Zawiya Tribe“, Berenice Stories, 14 Feb 2013). Thus, mentions of recruitment of members of the Magharba could potentially prefigure further attempts towards expansion in Magharba territory through alliance and allegiance and needs to be monitored.

Tribal connections, foreign recruitment and trade

The geographical presence of the Qadhadhfa in the region of the smuggling node of Sebha may also be a crucial advantage for the Islamic State. It most likely eases the move of weapons and fighters towards Libya to reinforce the ranks of the Islamic State first, then allow for reverse flow towards the Sahel countries and Sub-Saharan Africa both towards the west and the east.

raider
From photo report : “raiding the Dawn of Libya May 28th battalion in the south”

Indeed, it would seem that fighters from Nigeria’s Boko Haram have contributed, notably over the last months, to beef up the ranks of the Islamic State in Libya. According to Callum Paton, an activist in Sehba estimates, using sources in both Sebha and Sirte, that “the number of Boko Haram fighters in Sirte could be as high as 1,000” (“Isis in Libya: How Boko Haram jihadis are flocking to join Daesh’s holy war in North Africa“, IBTimesUK, 5 March 2016). Always according to this activist, the Islamic State would use its own specific network, and not the usual smugglers for migrants. The Islamic State route and people would nonetheless go through Sebha (Ibid.). Furthermore, according to al-Ghwell of the Rafik Hariri Centre, Islamic State fighters in Sirte also include people from Chad and Niger (Ibid.), most probably coming through the same route. We also find trace of fighters from Somalia (H Lavoix, “At War against a Global Islamic State – Facing a Strategic Trap in Somalia?“, RTAS, 14 December 2015) and from Senegal (e.g. Emma Farge, “From Senegal to Libya – an African student joins Islamic State“, Reuters, 30 March 2016).

As a result, the Qadhadhfa’s connection for the Islamic State also means most probably an eased mobilisation, recruitment and access to radicalised people initially located south beyond the Libyan border.

Similarly, trade between Libya and the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa is favoured, as already exists with Nigeria (Callum Paton, Ibid.), which, again, may enhance the Islamic State resources, in turn increasing its capacity to attract fighters as well as to wield cooptation.

22 car sales sc

Sirte, car sales, Islamic State, Libya
From photo report “car market taking place in Sirte”, 14 April 2016

In this light, the emphasis found in the psyops of wilayat Tarabulus on a car market taking place in Sirte (photo report, 14 April 2016) or on sales of fodder (see photo above) may also be part of a wish to demonstrate the Islamic State’s wealth as well as its trading capabilities. Similarly the video “Of their Goods, Take Alms”, (wilayat Tarabulus, 27 February 2016) even though focused on zakah and thus succour given to the poor (see for a detailed explanation Money, Wealth and Taxes, Ibid), also displays wealth mainly as cattle, crucial in a land of desert, as well as money, and thus could also be seen as broadly favouring trade.

The second better known route and connection towards Tunisia, as well as the Islamic State’s activities in Bani Walid will be examined with a forthcoming post.

In conclusion, the consideration of the forces of the Islamic State in terms of numbers of fighters stresses an important but still relatively small threat. Once one moves beyond the solely quantitative and look at state-building and connections to tribes, the potential threat becomes severe, while the likelihood to see a full and rapid decline of the Islamic State in Libya decreases (which does not mean disappears). At this stage of our analysis, the situation displays dynamics specific to the Libyan terrain which may conjugate not only with the Mesopotamian battlefield but also with a regional African one. It is thus more than “just a fallback” for the Mesopotamian theatre of operation.


Featured image: 14th photograph of the photo report – Wilayat Tarabulus, “Graduation Ceremony in Sirte”, 18 April 2016.

About the author: Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the Director of The Red (Team) Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for national and international security issues.

Notes

*Indeed, oil and gas only represents for the Islamic State in Mesopotamia around 40% of its income, Jean-Charles Brisard and Damien Martinez, Islamic State: the Economy-Based Terrorist Funding, Thomson Reuters Accelus, Oct 2014; IHS “Islamic State Monthly Revenue Drops to $56 million” 18 April 2016 – note the difference in break-down between the two evaluations. See also H Lavoix, “Understanding the Islamic State’s System – Money, Wealth and Taxes“, RTAS, 13 July 2015.

**Out of concern for the individuals mentioned in this paragraph, be it in Libya or Mesopotamia, and to avoid increasing the chance they could be victims of future reprisals by one faction or another, no image is given here.

Libya’s Future Scenarios – Sc 2 (7) Libyans vs International Coalition, Tensions ahead

This article is the seventh of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an international intervention that entered the Libyan conflict in favor of the nationalists, but partnered with several powerful Libyan factions. Though the coalition prefers as many Libyan partners as possible, they focus more on the powerful groups, such as Zintan, Misrata, and the Libyan military. At this stage of our scenario, the international coalition encounters difficulties in partnering with Libyan factions and faces the potential of partnered groups breaking away.

Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafist will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2 The International Coalition Encounters Difficulties in Partnering with Libyan Factions

Although most Libyan factions have a common enemy – notably the Islamic State – the international coalition begins to encounter difficulties in partnering with them. The Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou, as well as a few militias from Zintan and Misrata, oppose partnering with foreign forces as they consider foreign intervention an illegitimate action. Misratan militias are distrustful of partnering with forces that are loyal to General Haftar, which contributes to the complications of an integrated partnership. Military leadership under General Haftar expresses distrust of Misratan factions, as Misrata supported the General National Congress and sided with the Islamists. Sentiment of the Zintan-Misrata rivalry (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces II,” December 1, 2014) also impairs the ability of their armed groups to truly partner over time together with the international coalition. Furthermore, some factions partner with the coalition solely because their rival agreed to partner with the West, while others take the opposite side of their rivals, which automatically weakens the foundation that the coalition attempts to build for its intervention. In attempting to build a foundation of competent Libyan partners that will rally against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in coordination with international forces, the coalition seriously underestimates the importance of tribal allegiances, personal interests, and rivalries in Libya that present serious reliability issues before a foundation can even be attempted. Unmet expectations and needs of Libyan factions also contribute to partnership difficulties. Expectations and needs include money for their fighters, weapons and munitions, and their leaders being included in the decision-making process of military operations. By not treating Libyan partners with respect or not giving them a sense of legitimacy, the coalition significantly weakens the overall cohesiveness of intervention.

Map of Libyan positions by Thomas van Linge

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The perception of Libyan tribes and militias towards foreign forces. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups (Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 1,” April 13, 2015), some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. Some militias and tribes – even some on the nationalist side – may consider foreign intervention as a violation of Libyan sovereignty. Thus, negative perception of tribes and militias towards foreign forces could prompt them to actively oppose international forces on the ground. The Islamic State has begun to exploit that perception by “spreading a nationalistic narrative, portraying itself as the most important bulwark against foreign intervention” (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016).
  2. The level of pressure on international actors to not arm or work alongside an array of Libyan militias, considering failures in Syria. If Western governments come under intense pressure to not arm or train Libyan militias, the likelihood of this scenario increases. Considering the cost of the U.S.-Syrian rebel program and the inability of the U.S. to control its own Syrian partner forces (RT, November 6, 2015; Bulos, Hennigan, and Bennett, Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2016), Western governments may quickly be pressured into abandoning a partner strategy and opting for an airstrike campaign instead.
  3. The willingness of Islamist or Misratan groups to partner with nationalist groups that are loyal to General Haftar. Considering their hatred of General Haftar (see Mitchell, “Islamist and Misrata Forces I,” January 5, 2015), Islamist and Misratan groups might not be willing to partner with a coalition that includes the military under Haftar’s command – even if the intervention objective is focused on Salafist threats. It is highly likely that the opposition to partnering with Haftar’s forces and the coalition could only be overcome by exhaustion resulting from years of civil war. Thus, the longer the fighting continues, the more likely the Islamists and Misratans might be willing to partner with Haftar’s nationalists.
  4. The level of remaining sentiment stemming from the Zintan-Misrata rivalry. Main militias from Zintan and Misrata held truce talks and cease-fires that allowed them to withdraw a majority of their forces from fighting each other, and shift them to confront Islamic State threats (El-Ghobashy and MorajeaThe Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015). However, smaller militias from both sides may still harbor animosity toward one another. If a majority of the militias from both Misrata and Zintan are enlisted into an intervention coalition, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. The key is to offer a non-partisan partnership that is focused on destroying their common enemy (Salafist groups).
  5. The legitimacy of a faction’s reason to partner with the international coalition. A group’s reason to partner with the coalition is more legitimate if they partner under the unifying goal of destroying Salafist threats. However, the reason for partnering loses legitimacy (and thus, the partnership foundation is already weakened) if groups partner simply because their rival partnered, or if they are doing the opposite of their rival. The partnering of international ground forces with particular armed groups in Libya could be seen as a sign of partisanship by other militias, and thus cause them to oppose any partnership (Wehrey and Lacher, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 7, 2016).
  6. The ability to meet expectations and needs of Libyan partners. The coalition will need to meet some expectations or needs of Libyan groups if they are to partner for the intervention. Of practical importance, Libyan militias will need funding to pay their fighters, as many Libyan militias lack sufficient cash (Stewart, CBC News, April 10, 2016). More importantly, the coalition will need to treat Libyan partners with respect and include their leadership in the decision-making process. If it fails to do so, Libyan partners may quickly separate from the coalition, citing their treatment as less-legitimate partners by the coalition.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.1 The Coalition Intervenes with Limited Libyan Ground Partners and Maintains Enough Cohesiveness to Destroy Salafist Threats

Despite the many difficulties of forming a cohesive ground force, the international coalition manages to cobble together a patchwork of Zintani and Misratan factions that can work alongside the military – although not all militias from Zintan and Misrata are willing to partner. Furthermore, the Amazigh, Tuareg and Toubou tribes either remain neutral or oppose the idea of foreign forces in Libya, and thus do not partner. The coalition deploys Special Forces and training advisors on the ground to work alongside and help train the limited number of Libyan ground partners. With Special Forces and air power from contributing countries, as well as Libyan ground partners, the coalition engages Salafist strongholds. By integrating its ground forces with each Libyan partner, the coalition contributes to see its Libyan partners staying focused on the single uniting goal of destroying Salafist threats, such as the Islamic State. By constantly encouraging each Libyan partner’s focus on this uniting effort and beginning to achieve some success against Salafist militants, the coalition is able to maintain just enough cohesiveness to mitigate and subsequently destroy the main Salafist strongholds.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The willingness of Libyan factions to partner with the coalition despite some of their militias opposing the partnership. In the Dawn of Libya coalition, as well as within Misrata itself, there tend to be some hardline militias that do not agree with what the rest of the faction is pursuing (Mezran, Atlantic Council, August 12, 2015; Libya Herald, June 18, 2015). If the main Libyan factions are still willing to partner with the coalition despite some hardliners in their group, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The efficiency of the air and ground strategies to destroy Salafist strongholds. The success against Salafist strongholds relies on the efficiency of the air and ground strategies, as well as the ability of Libyan forces to carry out the ground campaign. If the strategies rely too heavily on the ability of the Libyan militias to move tactically and quickly, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. However, if the air and ground strategies are well balanced and efficient, the likelihood increases.
  3. The ability of coalition ground forces to efficiently integrate with their Libyan partners. If coalition Special Forces and tactical air controllers are able to properly integrate with their Libyan partner groups – particularly militia groups – the likelihood of this scenario increases. By having limited numbers of coalition ground forces operating alongside each partner group, the coalition is better able to encourage its indigenous partners to keep focused on destroying Salafist strongholds.
  4. Indicator 1 of scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2 also acts here in a similar way.
  5. Indicators 1 and 2 of scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.1 also act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2 The Coalition Intervenes with Limited Libyan Ground Partners, but Quickly Fractures

Similar to the scenario above, the coalition manages to form a patchwork of various Zintani and Misratan factions that will partner with the Libyan military in support of the overall international intervention. The coalition forces and its Libyan partners begin to target and engage Salafist strongholds, but the Libyan partnered factions quickly begin to lose cohesiveness as rivalries, tribal allegiances, and exclusion from the decision-making process (regarding coalition strategy) quickly overcome the uniting goal of destroying the Salafist threats. Militias from Zintan and Misrata begin to revert to their rivalry while in close proximity to each other, and the Misratans begin to re-focus on their hatred of General Haftar while his military forces fight alongside them. With rivalries coming to the forefront during the campaign to destroy Salafist strongholds, the Libyan partnership quickly fractures and the ground offensives largely fail.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The Libyan partners’ inability to restrain their rivalries and tribal allegiances. By working in very close proximity to each other, some of the Libyan groups will likely be unable to restrain their rivalries with other groups. Furthermore, if groups with rival tribal allegiances are in close proximity, they may turn on each other rather than stay focused on targeting Salafist threats. The likelihood of this scenario increases if the Libyans are not able to keep their rivalries and allegiances in check.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.1 The Coalition Withdraws, Back to Civil War

Facing a complete failure in partnering with strategic Libyan factions and not wanting to exacerbate civil war, the coalition withdraws its intervention forces. The Libyan factions then return to civil war.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2 The International Coalition Abandons an Integrated Partnering Strategy, Pursues an Airstrike Campaign Strategy

Norwegian F-16s during Operation Odyssey Dawn

Facing legitimacy, reliability, and internal conflict issues in partnering with groups from rival sides of the civil war, the international coalition abandons this integrated partnering option with Libyan factions. Instead, the international coalition only coordinates with the military and begins to formulate an airstrike campaign strategy that focuses on Salafist threats. The coalition sends some advisors to help train the military, but overall avoids the use of ground forces from the contributing countries. Not wanting to get bogged down in another civil war by contributing ground forces and training Libyan groups, the international coalition eagerly contributes to an airstrike campaign strategy that will pummel Salafist capabilities from the air while the Libyan military prepares to launch a ground offensive on the strongholds.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of support for Salafist groups in Libya – particularly once intervention is heavily propagandized. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the operational capabilities of Salafist groups in Libya, which could improve their efforts to hinder intervention forces. Furthermore, Salafist groups could foster recruitment from marginalized indigenous groups, which the Islamic State has done around the Sirte area, Tripoli, and Sabratah (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016). Salafist groups could also use the intervention for propaganda purposes, which could boost its external support as well.
  2. Indicators 1 and 2 of scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2 also act here in a similar way.
  3. Indicators 3, 5, 6, 7 of scenario 2.1.1.4 also act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.1 Coalition Airstrikes put Pressure on the Salafists, Enables Nationalists to Defeat the Islamists

After coordinating an airstrike campaign strategy with contributing nations and the nationalist forces, the coalition begins to target strategic Salafist positions in Northern Libya. With the coalition airstrikes putting significant pressure on Salafist fighters and capabilities – notably against Islamic State targets in Sirte and al-Qaeda trafficking routes in Southern Libya – the nationalists shift more forces to Western Libya. By bulking up its forces in the West, the nationalists are able to degrade the Islamists’ fighting capabilities and eventually defeat them both militarily and politically. With the Islamists no longer posing a political or military threat to nationalist forces, the nationalists take over and institute a central governing authority. Future Islamist movements are repressed as the new nationalist government attempts to stabilize Libya and eliminate any remaining Salafist groups. Recognizing the importance of the minority tribes in the stabilization process, the new government attempts to better include the Toubou, Tuareg and Amazigh – regardless of who they supported during the civil war.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The ability of the coalition to keep constant pressure on Salafist groups and impair their operational capabilities. The efficiency of the coalition to keep constant pressure on Salafist groups depends heavily on the number of aircraft and support personnel, availability of precision-guided munitions, and intelligence on Salafist targets. If coalition forces lack any of these critical elements, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. Past indications occurred when NATO partners ran low on precision-guided munitions only three weeks into Operations Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector, and when Operation Inherent Resolve coalition forces borrowed from the United States munitions stockpiles to keep their missions going (Cenciotti, The Aviationist, April 17, 2011; Pawlyk, Air Force Times, March 28, 2016). The U.S. Department of Defense also announced that the number of its precision-guided munitions is at a low point and will need to be replenished in 2017 (Pawlyk, Air Force Times, March 28, 2016).
  2. The strategic focus of nationalist forces. The strategic focus of the nationalist forces significantly affects the likelihood of this scenario. If nationalist forces are focused on defeating the Salafists first, the likelihood decreases. However, if they revert to defeating the Islamists once coalition airstrikes put significant pressure on Salafist groups, the likelihood increases.
  3. The level of support for Salafist groups in Libya – particularly once intervention is heavily propagandized. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the operational capabilities of Salafist groups in Libya, which could improve their efforts to hinder intervention forces. Furthermore, Salafist groups could foster recruitment from marginalized indigenous groups, which the Islamic State has done around the Sirte area, Tripoli, and Sabratah (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016). Salafist groups could also use the intervention for propaganda purposes, which could boost its external support as well.
  4. The willingness of the new government to better include the minority tribes in the political process. The new government must recognize the importance of the minority tribes in the stabilization and rebuilding processes (see Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I, II, and III), as well as be willing to politically include any minority tribe that opposed them during the civil war. The Southern Libyan borders are crucial to stabilization and peacebuilding, and thus the Tuareg and Toubou must be considered vital partners for the new government. If the new government is willing to better include the minority tribes in the political process, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  5. The level of exclusion on the Islamists from participating in the nationalist-formed government. If the nationalists attempt to exclude the Islamists from political participation in the new government the same way that Libyan groups wanted to keep Qaddafi-supporters out of the post-2011 intervention governments (Shennib and Donati, Reuters, May 5, 2013), the likelihood of this scenario increases. The exclusion of Islamists from the political process will likely impact the peacebuilding phase, as Islamists will protest for political inclusion.
  6. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. Some of the Islamists currently have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy, as well as the Salafi-nationalist’s support of a Sharia-based government increases the likelihood of this scenario.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.2 Coalition Airstrikes Exacerbate Civil War

Although the coalition’s impressive airstrike campaign helps to degrade the Salafists’ capabilities, it exacerbates civil war as the Libyan factions begin to view the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates as the Western intervention’s problem – thus allowing the remaining Libyan factions to reinforce their own forces in fighting each other for power. By forcing significant pressure on Salafist strongholds from the air, the coalition inadvertently reduces the one unifying goal that brings differing Libyan factions together in facing the larger threat.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Libyans’ perception of the intervention. As the coalition’s airstrike campaign begins to destroy Salafist capabilities and break down their strongholds, there is the possibility of Libyans perceiving the Salafist threats as the West’s problem. Knowing that the intervening countries need to target Salafist threats for their own countries’ security, Libyan factions see the intervention as an opportunity to let the coalition deal with the Salafists as the rival Libyan factions launch new offensives against each other.
  2. Indicator 1 of scenario 2.1.1.4.1.2.2.2.1 also acts here in a similar way.

Bibliography

Featured Photo: Libyan rebels during the 2011 revolution by FreakFrame [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Brian Stewart, “Commando-style diplomacy finds an unexpected foothold in war-torn Libya: Brian Stewart,” CBC News, April 10, 2016

David Cenciotti, “Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) Explained (Day 29),” The Aviationist, April 17, 2011

“Derna Mujahidine Shura Council will support “any” Islamic Sharia government,” Libya Herald, December 24, 2015

“Failed Syrian rebel training program cost US taxpayers $2 million per fighter – report,” RT, November 6, 2015

Frederic Wehrey and Wolfram Lacher, “The Next Front Against ISIS,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 7, 2016

Ghaith Shennib and Jessica Donati, “Libyan parliament bans ex-Gaddafi officials from office,” Reuters, May 5, 2013

“IS rebukes Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council in verbal counter-attack,” Libya Channel, December 31, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (6) International Intervention with Libyan Partners,” The Red Team Analysis Society, March 21, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 13, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3),” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 11, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Islamist & Misrata Forces (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, January 5, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Islamist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, January 26, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Nationalist Forces (2),” December 1, 2014

Karim Mezran, “Libya: Half an Agreement is Better than No Agreement,” Atlantic Council, August 12, 2015

“Letter dated 4 March 2016 from the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council,” United Nations Security Council, March 9, 2016

Nabih Bulos, W.J. Hennigan, and Brian Bennett, “CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria,” Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2016

Nisreen Amer, “The Use of Violence in Libya,” The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015

Orlana Pawlyk, “Air Force ‘loans’ bombs to coalition partners in war on ISIS,” Air Force Times, March 28, 2016

“Salah Badi Creates ‘Libya Dawn 2’ as Libya Dawn 1 Crumbles,” Libya Herald, June 18, 2015

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Two Main Libyan Militias Are Maintaining a Truce to Battle Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (6) International Intervention with Libyan Partners

This article is the sixth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed the preliminary stages of an international coalition created to intervene in Libya in favor of the nationalists – either by invitation from the nationalist government, or if the new unity government fails and fragments. However, Libya’s new Government of National Accord (GNA) is now recognized by the U.S., UK, Italy, Germany and France as “the only legitimate government in Libya” (European Union Statement, March 13, 2016; Musa, Boston Globe, March 13, 2016), which means that any international intervention that favors the nationalist side will now occur only after (and if) this unity government fragments into former factions. Note that many of the indicators and factors underlined below will be operative in both the scenario detailed here and the forthcoming scenario focused on an operative GNA.

At this stage of our scenario (see Mitchell, “International Intervention” February 29, 2016), international actors from beyond the region have formed a coalition to enter the Libyan conflict in favor of the nationalists, and attempt to partner with Libyan factions to support the intervention.

Note: Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for those that supported the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note those that supported the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafi will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1: The International Coalition Intervenes with Libyan Ground Partners

The international coalition deploys ground forces in Libya to work with the Libyan military, Misratan factions and Zintani factions, as well as initiates an air-strike campaign against Salafi targets. Considering the complex dynamics of Libya’s war, an international intervention that retains its Libyan ground partners hinges on keeping the overall force together by focusing on engaging Salafist groups and reconstructing Libya as common goals. With a history of rivalry (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces 2,” December 1, 2014), the ability of Zintan and Misrata to cooperate with the international coalition relies on the larger threat of Salafist expansion – particularly in areas near Zintan or Misrata. Overall, the ability for this international intervention strategy to succeed relies on partnering with the more powerful and organized factions (Misrata, Zintan, Libyan military), but also progressively partnering with other tribes and factions. By using Misrata, Zintan, and the Libyan military as building blocks for a partnered intervention, the international coalition progressively attracts many of the Arab tribes in the north, which are also threatened by Salafist groups. However, it encounters difficulties in fully partnering with the minority tribes of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou, as they oppose foreign troops in their territories (reminiscent of colonialism), and have no guarantee of adequate representation in any future government, since they are unsure of what to expect from a nationalist government if the Islamists are defeated – especially considering their history of unresolved political grievances under various governments. Nonetheless, the international coalition continues to pursue positive communication with the minority tribes in a bid to win their support throughout the intervention.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The willingness of partnered Libyan groups to stay focused on the common goals, rather than pursue alternate agendas. If any of the partnered Libyan groups – Zintan, Misrata, or the military – revert back to their old objectives/agendas rather than fully engaging Salafist factions, the likelihood of this scenario decreases. Furthermore, a strong desire to stabilize and rebuild Libya must be the ultimate end goal of partnered Libyan groups.
  2. The level of determination of Zintani and Misratan leadership to follow through with a peacebuilding strategy, rather than return to their rivalry. If, after mitigating or altogether destroying Salafist factions with the rest of the coalition, Zintani and Misratan leadership are determined not to return to civil war and pursue a peaceful transition through a peacebuilding phase, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. The level of opposition by rival tribes or factions towards Misrata or Zintan. If rival tribes are so fervent in their opposition that they begin to challenge Misratan or Zintani power (through territorial grabs, forming competing alliances that threaten Misratan or Zintani tribes, etc.), the coalition and its Libyan partners may begin to experience fragmentation if Misrata or Zintan withdraw their forces to protect their people or territory – thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario. Considering the tribalism and rivalry in Libyan society, this indicator is likely to play a role in the cohesion of an international intervention that partners with Libyan factions (see Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I, II, and III).
  4. The perception of Libyan tribes and militias towards foreign forces. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups (Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 1,” April 13, 2015), some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. Some militias – even ones on the nationalist side – may consider foreign intervention as a violation of Libyan sovereignty. Thus, negative perception of tribes and militias towards foreign forces could prompt them to actively oppose international forces on the ground. The Islamic State has begun to exploit that perception by “spreading a nationalistic narrative, portraying itself as the most important bulwark against foreign intervention” (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016). Furthermore, the partnering of international ground forces with particular armed groups in Libya could be seen as a sign of partisanship by other militias (Wehrey and Lacher, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 7, 2016), who could then seek to actively oppose foreign forces. Increased opposition by tribes and militias decreases the likelihood of this scenario.
  5. The level of tribal incentives to support the intervention and its partnered Libyan forces. Having seen the result of a previous international intervention in Libya (2011), and still harboring unresolved political grievances from the post-intervention governments (see “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 2” and “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 3”), the minority tribes of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou may decide to either oppose or remain neutral to supporting the intervention. Furthermore, these tribes may lose all faith that external “assistance” will bring stability to Libya and by extension, its tribes. For example, leaders of the Toubou tribe are examining the potential of an independent Toubou state in Southern Libya – after having experienced the repercussions of Libya’s instability and having lost hope in the international community to help Libyans bring stability back to their country (Hatita, Asharq Al-Awsat, March 14, 2016). However, one, two, or all three minority tribes may also view intervention as an opportunity to gain influence or reward with whichever government comes to power after the intervention – as was the case with the Toubou, who gained expanded control of Southern routes and borders from the National Transitional Council for supporting the revolutionaries in 2011 (see Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 3,” May 11, 2015). If the minority tribes see that partnering with the international coalition provides more advantageous, the likelihood of this scenario increases.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.1: The International Coalition and Libyan Partners Succeed against Salafist Groups and Defeat the Islamists

By strategically coordinating with Misrata, Zintan, and the Libyan military, the international coalition begins to dismantle Salafist organizations in Libya primarily through precision air strikes, and by advising Libyan ground partners as well as by deploying Special Forces to conduct missions alongside Libyan ground forces. Although some tribes and factions oppose international intervention and the coalition’s partnering with certain Libyan groups, the coalition and its partners actively work to destroy the Salafists as quickly as possible, in order to transition to a peacebuilding phase that would be inclusive of all Libyan tribes.

Conducting such an offensive on Salafi groups across Northern Libya with partners from the Libyan military, Zintan, and Misrata lessens the Islamists’ influence, power, and territory by default. With incremental loss of territory and legitimacy, the Islamists are eventually defeated by the nationalists, who use their partnerships with Misrata and the international coalition to reduce the Islamists’ territory as they engage Salafist threats around Sirte and the Northwestern region of Libya. Facing heavy ground and air attacks on their coastal strongholds, some Libyan Salafist groups shift their bases in order to operate out of Southern Libya – a shadow of their former strongholds in the North – while others integrate with Salafist groups operating in the Sinai. Shifting Islamic State militants from Libyan wilayats to Wilayat Sinai would contribute to a successful intervention in Libya, but would pose a large problem for Egypt (Aboulenein, Reuters, March 2, 2016; Nisman and Horowitz, Reuters, February 16, 2016; Dabiq, issue 13).

Although the international coalition might have preferred to see reconciliation between the two sides, it opposed implementing a forced political resolution, instead allowing the Libyans to determine their political solution (a government supported by the nationalists). The international coalition and its Libyan partners eventually destroy or mitigate the Salafi threats, and the nationalist-supported government takes over as the sole governing authority in Libya – having defeated the Islamists. Once Salafist threats are mitigated or destroyed altogether, there is a risk of a returning rivalry between Zintan and Misrata, as they (and the Libyan military) compete for political and military power in the absence of a common threat. Considering the history of favored tribes holding political influence (see Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 1,” April 13, 2015), a new government coming to power forces many tribes to vie for political influence, unless equal tribal representation is implemented (see “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I” and “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II” for issues stemming from unequal tribal representation in the government).

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of support for Salafi groups in Libya – particularly once intervention is heavily propagandized. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the operational capabilities of Salafi groups in Libya, which could improve their efforts to hinder intervention forces. Furthermore, Salafi groups could foster recruitment from marginalized indigenous groups, which the Islamic State has done around the Sirte area, Tripoli, and Sabratah (United Nations letter from Panel of Experts on Libya, March 9, 2016). Salafi groups could also use the intervention for propaganda purposes, which could boost its external support as well.
  2. The willingness of partnered Libyan groups to stay focused on combatting Salafist threats, rather than pursue alternate agendas. If any of the partnered Libyan groups – Zintan, Misrata, or the military – revert back to their old objectives/agendas rather than fully engaging Salafist factions, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  3. The type of intervention strategy put forth by the involved nations. The success of an international intervention to destroy Salafi threats in Libya relies significantly on the type of strategy used. The most likely strategy would be a light-footprint strategy that consists of an aerial campaign, Special Forces, training of indigenous forces, and shared intelligence with reliable Libyan groups. However, the issue with a light-footprint strategy is that it could easily turn into a mission creep operation where primary objectives could continually change, resulting in an unplanned, protracted intervention – particularly considering the dynamics of Libya. This type of strategy was recently proposed by the Pentagon to the White House, which included airstrikes against critical Islamic State targets that would “open the way for Western-backed Libyan militias to battle Islamic State fighters on the ground” (Schmitt, The New York Times, March 8, 2016).
  4. The level of opposition by the international coalition to force a political solution. With the current level of Salafi threats and the likelihood of a failed political solution (which becomes a certainty if a unity government fragments), the international coalition may be less willing to focus on a forced political solution between the nationalists and the Islamists if it means relieving pressure on the Salafists. If the international community is able to recognize the complexity and dynamics at work in Libya, it will realize that more of a forced political solution will be useless in the long-term, and thus is willing to allow the decline of the Islamists as the coalition and its partners combat Salafist threats.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.2: The International Intervention Results in Protracted Conflict as Libya’s Civil War Expands

After deploying its forces to Libya, the international coalition quickly begins to encounter additional opposition from Libyan militias and tribes that are vehemently opposed to foreign intervention – particularly once the coalition partners with their rivals, as well as when civilians get killed as a result of intervention strikes. Tribal dynamics, competing interests between factions, and differing views of legitimacy (in regard to intervention) contribute to the expansion of war. Lacking the full support of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou tribes, the international coalition begins to face increasing challenges that contribute to protracted conflict, particularly in Southern Libya, where the Tuareg and Toubou control territory. Without cooperation from these tribes in Southern Libya, the international coalition struggles to prevent Salafist groups from expanding there, which in turn enables a protracted conflict. Furthermore, Salafist groups use the intervention as propaganda to boost their numbers and capabilities in Libya – all of which contributes to an expanded, and protracted civil war.

This intensified and protracted intervention can lead to one of three potential outcomes: the international force and their partnered groups emerge victorious and transition to peacebuilding, they emerge victorious and fail to transition to peacebuilding (re-escalation of conflict), or, not wanting to get dragged further into a protracted conflict, the international coalition withdraws from Libya and the intervention fails.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The inability of the international coalition to ease tensions between non-partnered factions. If members of the international coalition are unable to ease tensions with tribes and factions that aren’t militarily partnered with the coalition, the likelihood of this scenario increases. As the number of civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes and ground force operations begin to increase (particularly in the more tribal-dominated areas), so does the likelihood of this scenario.
  2. The level of tribal incentives to support the intervention and its partnered Libyan forces. Having seen the result of a previous international intervention in Libya (2011), and still harboring unresolved political grievances from the post-intervention governments (see “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 2” and “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 3”), the minority tribes of the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Toubou may decide to either oppose or remain neutral to supporting the intervention. Furthermore, these tribes may lose all faith that external “assistance” will bring stability to Libya and by extension, its tribes. For example, leaders of the Toubou tribe are examining the potential of an independent Toubou state in Southern Libya – after having experienced the repercussions of Libya’s instability and having lost hope in the international community to help Libyans bring stability back to their country (Hatita, Asharq Al-Awsat, March 14, 2016). However, one, two, or all three minority tribes may also view intervention as an opportunity to gain influence or reward with whichever government comes to power after the intervention – as was the case with the Toubou, who gained expanded control of Southern routes and borders from the National Transitional Council for supporting the revolutionaries in 2011 (see Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War 3,” May 11, 2015). If the minority tribes see that partnering with the international coalition provides more advantage, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. The willingness of Libyan tribes and militias opposed to intervention to engage the new coalition and forego any peaceful resolution. As these tribes and militias feel increasingly marginalized (maybe their rivals are partnered with the coalition) and some of their tribe or family members become civilian casualties, their willingness to engage coalition forces and abandon any peaceful resolutions also increases.
  4. The level of exhaustion of tribes and other factions. If the minority tribes or other factions experience high levels of exhaustion from continued war, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  5. Indicators 1, 2, 3 for sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.1 act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.2.1: The International Coalition and Libyan Partners Emerge Victorious after Protracted Conflict, Transition to Peacebuilding

Because of Misrata’s, Zintan’s and progressively other groups’ partnership with the international coalition and major nationalist forces, the destruction of Salafist capabilities, and waning of the Islamists’ influence and territory, the Islamists and Salafi groups are considered defeated. Thus, the international intervention is deemed successful while the Libyan military, as well as Misratan, Zintani and other factions, emerge as the victorious powers. With the nationalists and the Misratans as the primary powers in Libya (after usurping the Islamists), they work with the international coalition to implement a peacebuilding process. The difference between a coalition and nationalist victory here and in 2.1.1.4.1.1.1 is that this victory only takes place after a protracted conflict.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.2.2: The International Coalition and Libyan Partners Emerge Victorious, but Fail to Transition to Peacebuilding – Back to Civil War

Because of Misrata’s partnership with the international coalition and major nationalist forces, the destruction of Salafist capabilities, and waning of the Islamists’ influence and territory, the Islamists and Salafi groups are considered defeated. Thus, the international intervention is deemed successful while the Libyan military, as well as Misratan and Zintani factions, emerge as the victorious powers. However, this leads to a renewed power struggle if the international coalition and these Libyan powers fail to implement a peaceful transition plan (see Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” September 28, 2015). Furthermore, the failure to implement a strong stabilization phase and peacebuilding plan allows marginalized tribes and factions to re-escalate the conflict.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1.1.2.3: The International Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal or Drawback

Facing a drawn-out conflict that would require extensive international forces and other resources, as well as not seeing any possibility for a peaceful solution, or having to deal elsewhere with more pressing matters, the international coalition decides to withdraw its forces, or significantly draws back its forces and externally supports some of the major factions in their fight against Salafi threats. This, in turn, could potentially lead to a unilateral or Arab League intervention if Salafi threats expand, as discussed in earlier scenarios.

In our next post, we shall detail scenarios where the international coalition fails to partner with Libyan groups.

Bibliography

Featured Photo: U.S. joint terminal attack controllers call for an A-10 Thunderbolt II during a close air support training mission by 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Photographers [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Abdul Sattar Hatita, “People of Toubou Seeking Independence in Libya,” Asharq al-Awsat, March 14, 2016

Ahmed Aboulenein, “In Islamic State battle, Cairo struggles to rally Sinai tribes,” Reuters, March 2, 2016

Daniel Nisman and Michael Horowitz, “New Islamic State franchise threatens Egypt,” Reuters, February 16, 2016

Eric Schmitt, “Pentagon Has Plan to Cripple ISIS in Libya With Air Barrage,” The New York Times, March 8, 2016

Frederic Wehrey and Wolfram Lacher, “The Next Front Against ISIS,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 7, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” The Red Team Analysis Society, September 28, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (5) International Intervention” The Red Team Analysis Society, February 29, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Nationalist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, December 1, 2014

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 13, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (3),” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 11, 2015

“Letter dated 4 March 2016 from the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council,” United Nations Security Council, March 9, 2016

“Ministerial meeting in Paris France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, USA, EU – Statement on Libya,” European Union, March 13, 2016

Rami Musa, “Libya’s new government ready to take power,” Boston Globe, March 13, 2016

“The Rafidah,” Dabiq, issue 13

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (5) International Intervention

This article is the fifth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed a Qatari intervention in Libya on the Islamist side. Here, we shall detail scenarios for an international intervention in Libya from beyond the region, which could occur if the nationalists and their internationally recognized government (at least until power is officially transferred to a unity government) extend an invitation to external actors, or if the unity government fails entirely. The unity government could fail if rival Libyan politicians are unable to form a unity government at all, or if the unity government is formed, but fails to make progress and thus disintegrates into former factions.

If we remember the beginning of our set of scenarios 2, at this stage, international actors from beyond the region have decided to militarily intervene in favor of one of the two governments. We chose to develop an intervention on the nationalist side and not on behalf of the Islamists (see terminology in next paragraph) because the latter would be too unlikely – considering that if the intervention does not help the more anti-Islamist movement survive (i.e nationalists), the intervening countries would be in a position of having to support an Islamist state where some of its armed factions had military alliances with groups like Ansar al-Sharia.

Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives (COR) and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note the General National Congress (GNC) and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafi will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

scenarios Libya, future of Libya, Libyan war, international intervention
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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4: An International Intervention Coalition is Formed to Enter the Libyan Conflict in Favor of the Nationalists

Concerned with the expansion of Salafi power and territory in Libya where the rivals are struggling to form the unity government (or where the unity government has failed to do so), countries from outside the region form an international intervention coalition to protect their national interests and begin combatting Salafi threats in Libya. With current Islamic State (IS) leaders migrating to Libya, and the diverting of jihadists from Syria and Iraq to IS groups in Libya, the intervening powers are among the leading active participants of Operation Inherent Resolve, as they decide to organize it within the framework of the Operation.

In an attempt to avoid serious questions of legality and to avoid opening the door to accusations of Western imperialism, the leading advocates for an intervention coalition attempt to get Russia, and China, to contribute to the intervention. With no united legitimate Libyan government to invite the coalition, diplomatic pressure or persuasion on Russia and China could assist in securing a UN Security Council approval for intervention in Libya – thus avoiding serious issues of legality. However, as the nationalist government and parliament are those currently recognized internationally (Yahoo News, February 24, 2016; Voice of America, February 25, 2016), the multinational coalition decides to emphasize this feature to assert the legitimacy of its coming intervention.

scenarios Libya, future of Libya, Libyan war, international interventionWith either a stalled effort by the rival governments to form the unity government, or the failure of a Libyan unity government and no likelihood in the short-term of a renegotiated political solution, several nations decide to contribute military forces to form the core of Libya’s intervention coalition. These members include the United States, the UK, France and Italy. Once opposed to hasty military intervention and promoting a political solution when the prospect of a unity government was still alive, Italy and France were drawn into the intervention coalition when the GNC and COR’s efforts to form a unity government stalled, or when the unity government failed and Libya descended further into the depths of civil war. Having experienced attacks on its citizens by Islamic State militants out of Libya, France and Italy decide to contribute to the coalition in a way proportional to their interests. After approval by the UN Security Council [as a fully legitimate Libyan government does not exist – would it exist domestically, then there would be no civil war], France contributes fighter aircraft to the air campaign, military advisers to train indigenous partners on the ground (if such partners exist – we will detail in future scenarios), special forces and intelligence, and starts wondering if it should also send troops as was done in Mali. Meanwhile, Italy contributes fighter aircraft and military advisers as well, potentially in addition to reconnaissance aircraft and allowing U.S. and UK fighter aircraft to operate out of bases in Italy.

[We have chosen only a few nations from beyond the region that would likely participate in this intervention coalition for the sake of the scenarios, although participating to the coalition would certainly not be limited to these states.]

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Stalled efforts to form a unity government. If the rival governments take exceedingly long to make any progress on forming a unity government – essentially stalled efforts – while the Salafi threats grow exponentially, concerned international actors will likely be forced to intervene to protect their security interests.
  2. Failure to form a unity government and make progress. If the Libyan parliaments fail to implement the agreed-upon structure of a unity government, or they form a unity government but fail to operate cohesively and then fragment into their former rivalry, the likelihood of this scenario significantly increases. See Scenario 1 (4) – Failed Negotiations and Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission for details on how this might occur.
  3. The legality of a military intervention. The legality of recent interventions has become a murky issue lately, particularly regarding Syria. The timing of an international intervention would affect whether it is disputed or not. If a coalition intervenes after having been invited by the internationally recognized COR (see War in Libya and its Futures: State of Play – Nationalist Forces (1) and (2)), it would be justified, but would have stronger justification if invited by a unity government. If the Libyan unity government quickly fails and the actors fragment back into factions, there could be dispute over who has legitimacy, since the unity government would have held all political authority before falling apart. At that point, approval by the UN Security Council might be needed in order to garner international backing for intervening – perhaps only after diplomatic pressure is applied to Russia and China. But if the Security Council cannot come to a consensus on intervention, outside the right to self-defense, any other military intervention falls under questionable legality.
  4. The level of Salafi threats in Libya at the time of intervention. Currently, the Islamic State in Libya has a stronghold in the region of Sirte, which threatens nearby Misrata in the west and the oil fields to the east. Recent estimates put Islamic State militants and sympathizers operating in Libya around the low thousands – many of which are in the Sirte area, with smaller groups operating in other areas of Libya. In addition, Al-Qaida affiliates operate primarily in Northeastern Libya, with training camps and smuggling routes in the south. The Islamic State in Libya, as al-Qaeda, currently occupies a strategic position that links Islamic State affiliates in Africa to those in the Middle East. Thus, Western powers currently feel compelled to deal with the Salafi threats, and intervention will likely happen soon – increasing the likelihood of this scenario occurring.
  5. Whether or not Libya is considered an extension of Operation Inherent Resolve. With senior Islamic State commanders reportedly migrating to IS strongholds in Libya (Gatehouse, BBC News, February 3, 2016; Schmitt, The New York Times, February 4, 2016), as well as ISIS leaders in Syria telling African IS recruits to “stay put in Libya” instead of passing through to Syria, Libya is becoming the next stronghold outside of Syria and Iraq. If their presence in Libya continues to grow as their numbers in Syria and Iraq decline (Schmitt, The New York Times, February 4, 2016; Kuwait News Agency, February 23, 2016), the Islamic State in Libya may be declared an extension of Inherent Resolve, thereby increasing the likelihood of this scenario occurring, as powers already involved in the operation shift resources and forces towards Libya.
  6. The willingness of countries to contribute forces to an intervention that lacks a fully legitimate Libyan government. The countries included in our proposed intervention coalition are currently operating in Libya in a limited capacity, or are opposed to intervention now, but will likely change course if an Islamic State attack on their country emanates from Libya or if the unity government fails and all political solutions dissipate. The U.S., UK and France already have Special Forces on the ground, while the U.S. and UK have conducted airstrikes in Libya (MEA Risk, February 19, 2016; The Nation, January 24, 2016; Altaqi and Aziz, Middle East Briefing, February 11, 2016; Wintour, The Guardian, February 9, 2016; Malta Independent, February 1, 2016; Hanly, Digital Journal, February 18, 2016; Taylor, Reuters, February 24, 2016; The Libya Observer, February 23, 2016). France is working closely with the Pentagon to develop a plan of action for full-scale military intervention after an invitation by a unity government (The Nation, January 24, 2016; Caravelli, World Tribune, February 3, 2016; Middle East Monitor, February 4, 2016); and Italy just signed an agreement with the U.S. to allow armed drones to take off out of its base in Sicily, but only after the Italian government approves each mission, and they can only be used in defensive strikes for ground forces “engaged in anti-Isis missions” (Kirchgaessner, The Guardian, February 22, 2016). Italy and France have stated their intentions of only intervening once a national unity government is established and invites international assistance, although French military advisers are reportedly already consulting and training Haftar’s Libyan National Army, as well as conducting fighting operations (ANSAmed, February 2, 2016; Middle East Monitor, February 4, 2016; Masi, International Business Times, February 1, 2016; Daou, France24, February 25, 2016; Herreros, Huffington Post, February 25, 2016; The Libya Observer,French Commandos are fighting with Haftar’s forces in Benghazi, sources say“, 23 Feb 2016). Stalled efforts to form a unity government, the failure of a Libyan unity government and or a terrorist attack emanating from Libya increases the willingness of France and Italy to participate in an intervention, which in turn increases the likelihood of this scenario, as shown by the latest U.S. as well as French interventions.
  7. The cost and capability to deploy intervention forces. Although the willingness of each country to deploy forces in an intervention coalition depend on the geopolitical and security climates at the time of intervention, the costs and capability may be, notably for European countries a break, especially considering involvement in other operations. We can assume that the United States will contribute the most aircraft, UAVs, and personnel (Special Forces, forward air controllers, intelligence/support personnel), followed by the UK with perhaps several Special Forces teams and support personnel, as well as fighter aircraft, followed by France and Italy, who contribute fighter aircraft and a couple hundred personnel (Special Forces, intelligence, military advisers) – depending on their mission role. Coalition members could also shift aircraft and personnel from Syria/Iraq to Libya, depending on the progress of Inherent Resolve in the Levant and members’ unwillingness to contribute additional forces, but ability to shift forces. ***Force estimates based on contributions to Inherent Resolve, current personnel operating in Libya, national interests, and total military force strength (McInnis, Congressional Research Service, November 18, 2015; Zway, Fahim and Schmitt, The New York Times, January 18, 2016; UK Defence in Numbers, UK Ministry of Defence, August 2015; Defence Key Figures, France Ministry of Defence, 2015).

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.4.1: The International Coalition Attempts to Partner with Libyan Factions for Its Intervention

scenarios Libya, future of Libya, Libyan war, international interventionWanting – and needing – reliable partners in Libya, the intervention coalition attempts to connect with armed factions that have primary interests in actively combatting Salafi groups. Although Libya offers an array of armed factions, only a few are palatable to the coalition. The overall problem facing the coalition is the unreliability, poor organization, tribal allegiances, and shifting interests of Libyan factions – making partnership risky and unpredictable in the long-term. Furthermore, the coalition quickly learns that partnering with particular groups only fosters tribal and local rivalries, as the rivals of coalition-partnered factions turn to ally with other groups (perhaps even Salafist groups) to shift the balance of power. The coalition partners risk becoming pawns in Libyan “games” they do not master. However, the coalition accepts these risks, as they desire more to have at least some Libyan partners on the ground to label the intervention as a Libyan-partnered intervention, rather than a Western-imposed one.

With stalled efforts to institute a fully domestically legitimate government, or seeing a unity government no longer in existence after failure and fragmentation, the coalition focuses on partnering with groups that offer strategic positioning, influence, and determination to combat Salafist threats. Thus, it starts partnering with Misrata, Zintan, and the Libyan military, notably of which, Zintan and Misrata mitigate their tense rivalry to take on Islamic State threats (see Mitchell, “Nationalist Forces II” for Misrata-Zintan rivalry). Partnering with these three groups provides strategic partners that can engage Salafi threats in Northeastern Libya, the Sirte region, and Northwestern Libya.

Meanwhile, and to make sure it will not meet critical setbacks should some of its partnerships fails, the international coalition supports further recruitment and training within the Libyan army to combat Salafi threats in Libya.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.4.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of common interest that can unite Libyan groups. International powers will be forced to choose from the actors on the ground that are willing to partner with them, and thus will likely partner with the Libyan military, Misrata, and Zintan. The overarching problem is that tribal and regional interests often outweigh the “common ground” that is needed for Western powers to leverage against Salafi threats (Wuite, The Interpreter, February 12, 2016). Although U.S. and UK Special Forces have been attempting to find reliable partners on the ground for the past several months, the effort has proven extremely difficult. For example, a U.S. Special Forces team sent to Libya in late 2015 was “driven out of the country shortly after their arrival” by local militias (Deutsche Welle, January 28, 2016). With tribal, regional, political, and religious interests often outweighing common interest to completely focus on Salafi threats, the likelihood of finding partners decreases.
  2. The ability to partner with Misrata brigades against Salafi threats. With a partner in the east (Libyan military), the intervention force would likely turn to Misrata as a partner in the west. The Misrata brigades are perhaps the only reasonable faction outside the nationalist forces with which an intervention force could partner, considering its strategic position northwest of the Islamic State stronghold in Sirte and its majority support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Furthermore, Misrata has experienced fighters and, according to Misratan politician Abdulrahman Swehli, has already made “military and intelligence” links with U.S. Special Forces (Zway, Fahim and Schmitt, The New York Times, January 18, 2016). By default, partnering with Misrata would severely weaken the Islamists, who either decline in political authority after the withdrawal of Misrata, or are defeated by the nationalists after Salafi threats are mitigated. With Misrata’s focus now on the Islamic State and Sirte rather than protecting the GNC or opposing the nationalists (The Associated Press, February 19, 2016), the likelihood of partnering with the intervention force increases.
  3. The ability to partner with Zintani militias against Salafi threats. Zintan is potentially showing signs of working with rivals against Salafi threats in the region, which could make Zintani militias easier to enlist as partners in a coalition that targets the same threats. A recent Islamic State attack in Sabratha (rival of Zintan and the nationalists) prompted Zintan to medically treat wounded militia members from Sabratha that opposed the jihadists – a potential sign that “Zintan and Sabratha may be prepared to cooperate in the fight against Islamic State” (Elumami, Reuters, February 24, 2016). Furthermore, main militias from Zintan and Misrata held truce talks and cease-fires that allowed them to withdraw a majority of their forces from fighting each other, and shift them to confront Islamic State threats (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015). If both Misrata and Zintan are enlisted into an intervention coalition (not showing partisanship is key), the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  4. The level of risk between partnering with existing armed groups or supporting and training a nationalist army. Attempting to partner with existing armed groups potentially means a shorter period of time, considering they won’t have to be sent off for training and incorporation into the nationalist army – which translates into forces already on the ground that can quickly engage Salafi threats. Furthermore, they remain in their cohesive, local militias, instead of being mixed into the nationalist army that has fighters from various regions and tribes that were once enemies – potentially creating a non-cohesive force. However, supporting and training the national army that is committed to fighting the Salafi groups could be seen as promising, instead of relying on existing groups that have their own interests and ambitions. We consider partnering with existing groups from Zintan, Misrata, and the Libyan military necessary if the goal is to engage Salafi threats as soon as possible.

In our next post, we shall detail scenarios where the coalition intervenes with Libyan partners.

Bibliography

Featured Photo: An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off on a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve by USAFE AFAFRICA [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Ahmed Elumami, “Islamic State militants kill 17 in Libya’s Sabratha: officials,” Yahoo News, February 24, 2016

Alessandria Masi, “Political Unity Is Key In Possible US, Europe Anti-ISIS Libya Intervention,” International Business Times, February 1, 2016

“Britain plans aerial bombings against Islamic State in Libya,” Malta Independent, February 1, 2016

Casper Wuite, “Libya: A new Western military intervention would be fraught with danger,” The Interpreter, February 12, 2016

“Defence Key Figures,” France Ministry of Defence, 2015

Dr. Jack Caravelli, “Dunford: U.S., France planning ‘decisive military action’ in Libya,” World Tribune, February 3, 2016

Eric Schmitt, “Obama Is Pressed to Open Military Front Against ISIS in Libya,” The New York Times, February 4, 2016

“French Commandos are fighting with Haftar’s forces in Benghazi, sources say,” The Libya Observer, February 23, 2016

“France considers military intervention in Libya,” Middle East Monitor, February 4, 2016

Gabriel Gatehouse, “Top IS commanders ‘taking refuge’ in Libya,” BBC News, February 3, 2016

“ISIS: Fabius, Italy leader in Libya, France by its side,” ANSAmed, February 2, 2016

“IS trying to attract as many foreign fighters to Libya as possible – US envoy,” Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), February 23, 2016

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?” The Red Team Analysis Society, September 28, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenarios 1 (4) – Failed Negotiations,” The Red Team Analysis Society, October 19, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Nationalist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, December 1, 2014

Kathleen J. McInnis, “Coalition Contributions to Countering the Islamic State,” Congressional Research Service, November 18, 2015

Ken Hanly, “Op-Ed: Pressure builds for foreign intervention in Libya without GNA,” Digital Journal, February 18, 2016

Marc Daou, “France’s ‘secret war’ against the IS group in Libya,” France24, February 26, 2016

“US Enters the Libyan Conflict, But Purpose of Attack Unclear,” MEA Risk, February 19, 2016

Patrick Wintour, “RAF flying Libyan missions in preparation for helping unity government,” The Guardian, February 9, 2016

Paul Taylor, “French special forces waging ‘secret war’ in Libya: report,” Reuters, February 24, 2016

Romain Herreros, “France Is Involved In A Secret Fight Against ISIS In Libya, Local Officials Say,” Huffington Post, February 24, 2016

Samir Altaqi and Esam Aziz, “The Pitfalls of Opening a Libyan Front against ISIL,” Middle East Briefing, February 25, 2016

Stephanie Kirchgaessner, “Italy to allow US drones to fly out of Sicily air base for attacks on Isis,” The Guardian, February 22, 2016

Suliman Ali Zway, Kareem Fahim and Eric Schmitt, “In Libya, U.S. Courts Unreliable Allies to Counter ISIS,” The New York Times, January 18, 2016

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Two Main Libyan Militias Are Maintaining a Truce to Battle Islamic State,” The Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2015

The Associated Press, “A glance at the main political players in Libya,” WRAL.com, February 19, 2016

“UK Defence in Numbers,” Ministry of Defence, August 2015

“US, allies weighing military action against ISIS in Libya,” The Nation, January 24, 2016

“US backs Libyan legislators over unity government,” Yahoo News, February 24, 2016

“US considers military intervention in Libya,” Deutsche Welle, January 28, 2016

“US, UN Welcome Libyan Lawmakers’ Support of Unity Government,” Voice of America, February 25, 2016

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (4) Qatar Intervenes on the Islamist Side

This article is the fourth of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed an Egyptian intervention in Libya on the nationalist side. In this article, we shall detail a Qatari intervention on the side of the Islamists, as well as possible scenario outcomes for an intensified, protracted conflict that results from either an Egyptian or Qatari intervention. At this stage for our scenarios, external actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the Islamists or nationalists that could emerge from a renewed split in the Government of National Accord (see previous article).

Considering the future names of potential factions that would result from a new split between the unity government, we shall use the label nationalist for the nationalist/liberal-dominated Council of Representatives and any future anti-Islamist factions; Islamist to note the General National Congress and any future pro-political Islamic movements; and Salafi will remain the label of choice for groups that reject democratic institutions and embrace jihadism.

For intents and purposes of not detailing every possible unilateral intervention scenario, we chose to detail one country per unilateral intervention type, as we deemed as most likely and representative.

Libya, scenarios Libya, Islamic State, Haftar, GNC, CoR, scenarios
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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3: Qatar Enters the Libyan Conflict on the Islamist’s Side

Doha, Qatar

Concerned with installing a friendly, Islamist-dominated central government in Libya, Qatar decides to intervene. As detailed in the previous post, other regional powers – with the exception of Egypt – are less inclined to unilaterally intervene (see Sc 2.1.1.2). At this point, Egypt has not unilaterally intervened in Libya, and is potentially awaiting an international coalition to intervene before deploying its forces. Thus, Qatar has decided to preemptively intervene to boost the power of the Islamists in Libya. Its objective is to assist the Islamists in rebuilding Libya as a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated state with Sharia as its basis for governance, and to avoid an international intervention that may reduce the chances to see this specific Islamist Libya emerging.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Perceptions of national interests regarding the outcome of Libya’s civil war. As detailed in indicator 1 of Sc. 2.1.1.2, currently, Algeria and Tunisia are highly unlikely to intervene considering their fear of increased destabilization caused by interventions. Saudi Arabia is currently focused on more pressing national interests, and is also unlikely to intervene. Egypt has significant national interests in the outcome of Libya’s civil war; particularly fear of an Islamist government coming to power and the Salafi threats originating next door. Generally supportive of Islamist movements, Qatar and Turkey have national interests in Libya in the form of helping the Islamists come to power.
  2. The level of risk between unilaterally intervening and providing extensive support. If unilaterally intervening to ensure that Libya becomes an Islamist state is worth the risk – compared to just providing extensive support without deploying forces – the likelihood of Qatar intervening increases.
  3. The level of risk for Qatar to intervene in favor of the Islamists and help to make Libya a Muslim-Brotherhood state. Currently, Qatar may not be as willing to unilaterally intervene in favor of the Islamists, so as to avoid international disapproval and not be subject to retaliatory measures such as sanctions or border closings (for example, see The Clarion Project, “Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” February 23, 2014). A higher level of risk decreases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The level of external constraints on Qatar that could prevent it from fully intervening in favor of the Islamists. For example, with ground troops currently deployed in Yemen to support the Saudi intervention, its involvement in Syria, and its backing of Saudi Arabia in the intensifying Saudi-Iran crisis, Qatar may be too constrained to focus on Libya and unilaterally send forces in support of the Islamists (Cafiero and Stout, LobeLog, December 8, 2015; Al-Jazeera, January 6, 2016; Gulf State Analytics, September 2015).
  5. The level of risk for Egypt between waiting for an international coalition or not. If Egypt decides to wait for an international coalition to be formed for a Libyan intervention, the likelihood of this scenario increases as Qatar could take advantage of Egypt’s hesitance and preemptively intervenes to help remove the nationalists from the Islamists’ road to power. However, if Egypt decides to wait for a UN intervention, Qatar might also decide that intervention is not necessary, but rather provide extensive support from outside the country – thus decreasing the likelihood of this scenario.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.1: Qatar’s Intervention Succeeds as No Other External Actor gets Involved Meaningfully to Support the Nationalists, Libya becomes an Islamist State

Having decided to intervene in the conflict on the Islamist side, Qatar deploys air and ground forces in Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground coordinating with Islamist military coalitions, the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a successful intervention for Qatar. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and rebuild Libya as an Islamist state. With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that supports Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. The Islamic State stronghold in Sirte would pose a problem for the rebuilding of an Islamist state, and thus would have to be dealt with by the Islamist government and Qatar’s forces in Libya.

However, we consider a successful Qatari intervention scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s likely decision to either unilaterally intervene first, or immediately intervene in favor of the nationalists in response to a Qatari intervention in Libya.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of external support for the Islamic State in Libya. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and leadership would boost the current operational capabilities of the Islamic State in Libya – which would help disrupt the Qatari intervention, and decrease the likelihood of this scenario occurring. Past indications include reports of an influx of foreign recruits headed to the Islamist State stronghold in Sirte, as well as reports of senior Islamic State leaders arriving in Libya (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015; Crilly, The Telegraph, December 2, 2015).
  2. Ability of Qatar and the Islamists to simultaneously combat the Islamic State and nationalist forces if both concentrate their efforts against the Qatari intervention. The nationalists will actively deploy their forces to counter the Qatari intervention, and, depending on its goals and military situation, the Islamic State may try to target the Qatari forces or increase their attacks against the Islamist leaders – forcing the Qatari-Islamist coalition to simultaneously confront two enemies. Combatting two enemies at once (one conventional, one unconventional) decreases the likelihood of this scenario occurring. However, if the Islamic State is more focused on attacking oil facilities in Libya to deplete the governments’ vital oil resources – as is currently the case (STRATFOR, January 18, 2016), they may be less inclined to fully focus on countering a Qatari intervention.
  3. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists currently have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy, as well as the Salafi-nationalist’s support of a Sharia-based government increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  4. The perception of Libyan tribes towards foreign troops on the ground. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups, some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. Tribes siding with the nationalists will likely perceive Qatar’s involvement in a negative light and be willing to fight both the Qatari forces and Islamist forces. However, Qatar has had previous interaction with Libya’s Tuareg and Toubou tribes by brokering a ceasefire in November 2015 (The Peninsula, November 24, 2015). Although the ceasefire was quickly violated, the Tuareg have reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar (Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015). Considering Qatar’s interaction and temporary success with the two Libyan tribes, it may positively impact their perception of Qatar. The likelihood of positive perception, and possible assistance, by Libyan tribes towards Qatar will depend on the tribes’ previous interactions with it and their allegiances to either the nationalists or Islamists.
  5. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  6. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.3.2: Qatar’s Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal

Qatari intervention forces deploy, and coordinate with the Islamists to defeat the nationalists and then focus on the Islamic State threat in Sirte. Realizing the intervention threat of being caught in a more effective pincer movement (see map below), the Islamic State in Sirte bolsters its power with overwhelming external support and fighters. Forced to simultaneously confront the expanding Islamic State and nationalist forces in and around the Islamist territory, Qatar’s intervention force and the Islamist forces begin to get bogged down in a drawn-out, bloody conflict. With no assistance from Turkey (the other pro-Islamist external actor), Qatar decides to withdraw its forces and the intervention fails.

Libyan military situation as of January 6, 2016

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Indicators 1, 2, 4 from scenario 2.1.1.3.1 act here in a similar way to impact the likelihood of a failed intervention.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3: The Egyptian (or Qatari) Intervention Results in Intensified, Protracted Conflict as Qatar (or Egypt) gets Involved to Support the Islamists (or nationalists)

This scenario is interchangeable between Egypt and Qatar. However, we deduce that Egypt is more likely to launch the initial intervention with a Qatari intervention response, rather than the other way around.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.1: General Conflagration of the Region

The deployments of Egyptian and Qatari forces, or full-scale war would likely cause general conflagration of the whole region and significantly impact the current geopolitical paradigm. Additionally, this could potentially lead to broader international involvement, as we shall detail in future scenarios.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2: Egypt and the Nationalists Emerge Victorious, Qatar and the Islamists are Defeated, and Libya becomes a Secular State

The intensified, protracted conflict forces Egypt to increase the strength of its intervention force, which, when combined with the nationalists’ forces, allows them to gradually inflict losses on the Qatari and Islamist forces. Not willing to commit even more military forces to a drawn-out intervention or not able to match Egypt’s increased military commitment, Qatar and its Libyan Islamist allies on the ground suffer gradual territorial losses until defeat. Qatar withdraws its intervention forces and the Islamists are subject to the victorious nationalist and liberal-dominated government that becomes the uncontested central government. Pressured by Egypt to repress Islamist groups in Libya and reinforced by its own dislike of Islamists, the nationalist and liberal government cracks down on Islamism while rebuilding a more secular state. With a more secular, anti-Islamist government in power, all Salafi groups would be targeted and not allowed to exist.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Egypt’s willingness to increase its intervention force strength. If Qatar comes close to matching Egypt’s original intervention force strength (particularly with air power), Egypt will likely need to increase its strength in order to emerge victorious. Thus, its willingness or not to deploy additional forces will impact the likelihood of this scenario.
  2. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is unwilling to commit sufficient military forces to match the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  3. The level of diplomatic effort to prevent other external actors from getting involved. If Egypt is concerned for the possibility of other external actors getting involved on the Islamist side with Qatar (primarily Turkey, in this case), it may pursue intense diplomatic efforts to keep the external actor out of Libya. If other external actors get involved, it may lead to general conflagration of the region (see above).
  4. The level of Egyptian pressure to repress Islamist groups in Libya. Once Egypt and the nationalists emerge victorious, there remains the question of rebuilding the state. Considering Egypt’s position on the Muslim Brotherhood within its own borders and its intervention in Libya to see the nationalists defeat the Islamists, it will likely put significant pressure on the nationalists and liberals of the victorious government to repress or entirely ban Islamists from participating in the government. If it gives in to Egypt’s pressure, the nationalist and liberal dominated government will attempt to rebuild a more secular state. A past indication of this occurred when Egypt – under El-Sisi’s rule – implemented an “unprecedented crackdown” on the Muslim Brotherhood (Brown and Dunne, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015). Furthermore, our peacebuilding mission scenario (Mitchell, “A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?”) details indications on what is needed to successfully stabilize and rebuild the Libyan state, with the primary differences being that 2.1.1.2.3.2 is based on a nationalist victory and lacks some of the strength it might have had with a united government from Sc. 1.1.1.2.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3: Qatar and the Islamists Emerge Victorious, Egypt and the Nationalists are Defeated, and Libya becomes an Islamist State

Qatar Emiri Air Force C-17

Deciding to deploy significant forces to Libya in support of the Islamists, Qatar increases the chances of an Islamist victory. To further increase their chances of victory, the Islamists increasingly ally with hardliner Islamist groups and Salafi-nationalist groups in Eastern Libya. With full Qatari military forces on the ground and strengthened alliances between the Islamists and Salafi groups, Egypt and the nationalists gradually incur losses of territory and legitimacy – eventually leading to a victory for Qatar and the Islamists. Without a political and military rival in the East, the Islamists become the uncontested central government and attempt to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state.

With an Islamist government in power that implements Sharia law, some Salafi-nationalist groups may be allowed to exist, considering their recent announcement declaring that any government that implements Sharia law would be recognized as legitimate in their eyes. However, some Salafi groups – notably the Islamic State – may react to the Islamist government in one of two ways. They either lose ideological appeal in Libya, thus facing a decrease in mobilization power, or, they increase the stakes ideologically to declare the Islamist government as an apostate government unless it declares allegiance to the Islamic State. Both reactions impact the Islamist governments’ ability to rebuild and govern.

However, we consider a Qatari-Islamist victory scenario highly unlikely, considering Egypt’s high level of motivation and military power, as well as Qatar’s seemingly limited ability to match Egypt’s military strength in a Libya intervention scenario.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.2.3.3 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Qatar’s willingness to commit more military forces to match Egypt’s military commitment. If Qatar is willing to commit sufficient military forces to match or exceed the level of Egypt’s committed military forces in Libya, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The willingness of Islamist and Salafi-nationalist groups to coordinate their efforts against the nationalists. The Islamists have ties to the hardliner Islamist groups in Eastern Libya (some of the coalitions include Salafi-nationalists), and have loosely allied with them to oppose Haftar’s Operation Dignity (Amer, The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015; Mitchell, “Islamist Forces II,” January 26, 2015; Libya Channel, December 31, 2015). By allying with coalitions of mixed Islamists and Salafi-nationalists, the more moderate Islamists have already shown their willingness to unite with extremist groups against a common enemy. Recently, the Derna Mujahidine Shura Council – a Salafi-nationalist group (see Mitchell, Islamist Forces II”) – announced its support for “any government” where “(Islamic) Sharia Law is the only source of any legislation, and anything in the form of legislation, laws or rules that contravenes sharia is rejected” (Libya Herald, December 24, 2015). The willingness on both sides to ally and coordinate against a common enemy increases the likelihood of this scenario.
  3. The level of cohesiveness among Islamists when rebuilding the state. If Libya’s Islamists lack cohesiveness, it will be very difficult to rebuild Libya as an Islamist state, and certainly impact the likelihood of this scenario. Past indications of internal splits occurred when rifts appeared in Jordan and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood groups (Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015; Alabbasi, Middle East Eye, December 17, 2015; Trager and Shalabi, The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016).
  4. The level of ideological appeal for Salafi groups in light of the new Islamist government. If an Islamist government comes to power and manages to begin making progress in rebuilding the state, Salafi groups may lose their ideological appeal. However, if they choose to raise the stakes ideologically by declaring the Islamist government as an apostate, the government may have more difficulty in stabilization and rebuilding efforts. A past indication signifying the Islamic State’s opposition to Islamists in Libya occurred when the eleventh issue of its Dabiq magazine noted the indignation of Abul Mughirah al Qahtani (leader of Islamic State’s Libyan wiliyat) towards the armed Islamist groups that support the General National Congress, calling them “apostate forces” (Dabiq, Issue 11).

In our next post, we shall discuss international interventions (from beyond the region) that take sides in Libya’s civil war.

Bibliography

Featured Photo:  Qatari Mirage jet by Mikhail Serbin [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] via Flickr

“Derna Mujahidine Shura Council will support ‘any’ Islamic Sharia government,” Libya Herald, December 24, 2015

Eric Trager and Marina Shalabi, “The Brotherhood Breaks Down,” The Washington Institute, January 17, 2016

Fikra Forum, “The Use of Violence in Libya,” The Washington Institute, December 18, 2015

“From the Battle of Al-Ahzab to the War of Coalitions,” Dabiq, Issue 11, The Clarion Project

Giorgio Cafiero and Alex Stout, “Qatar and the Islamic State,” LobeLog

“Islamic State Will Keep Targeting Libya’s Oil Infrastructure,” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, January 18, 2016

“IS rebukes Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council in verbal counter-attack,” Libya Channel, December 31, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures: State of Play – Islamist Forces (2),” The Red Team Analysis Society, January 26, 2015

“Libya’s Tuareg affirm commitment to ceasefire agreement signed in Qatar,” Middle East Monitor, December 22, 2015

Mamoon Alabbasi, “Rift widens in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood after spokesman’s sacking,” Middle East Eye, December 18, 2015

Monthly Monitor Report, Gulf State Analytics, September 2015

“More countries back Saudi Arabia in Iran dispute,” Al Jazeera, January 6, 2016

Nathan J. Brown and Michele Dunne, “Unprecedented Pressures, Uncharted Course for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 29, 2015

Osama Al Sharif, “Unprecedented rift splits Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, March 3, 2015

“Qatar brokers deal between Libya tribes,” The Peninsula, November 24, 2015

Rob Crilly, “Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2015

“Saudis Threaten Qatar Over Muslim Brotherhood Support,” The Clarion Project, February 23, 2014

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Islamic State Tightens Grip on Libyan Stronghold of Sirte,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (3) Egypt Intervenes on the Nationalist Side

Recently, announcements have been made regarding the acceptance of a UN-facilitated peace agreement with a framework to form a Government of National Accord (UN News Centre, January 2, 2016). However, only 88 lawmakers from the rival governments were in attendance at the signing, while the Deputy Speaker of the GNC stated on January 2nd that the GNC rejects the agreement, and the attending lawmakers represented “only themselves” – signifying difficulties and confusion regarding a fully-endorsed agreement by both sides (Abbas, Albawaba News, January 2, 2016; DePetris, Quartz, January 1, 2016). Furthermore, although the peace deal is supported by the international community and the UN has promised to support Libya in its transition (Ibid; Narayan and Robertson, CNN, December 17, 2015), there is an array of indicators discussed in “Scenarios 1: Towards Peace? (1)” and “Scenarios 1 (2) – A Victorious United Government?” that impact the likelihood of not only successfully forming a united government, but also one that is effective enough to retain control and eliminate Salafi threats. With a highly fragile peace agreement that continues to lack full Libyan support (Soguel, The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2015), there is a high possibility of regression over the next three years – and thus, it is still valid to envision the scenarios below as Libya may return to a civil war between Islamists, nationalists, and their armed coalitions. Furthermore, the high likelihood of a failed unity government in conditions of heightened need for an allowed international intervention against Salafi threats may have prompted the international community’s decision to support that government – despite its extreme fragility (see Mitchell, Scenarios 1 (3) – A Successful Peacebuilding Mission?”).

This article is the third of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. In our previous article, we discussed a Joint Arab Force intervention in Libya on the side of the Council of Representatives (COR). In this article, we shall detail types of unilateral interventions from the region. At this stage, external actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the General National Congress (GNC), COR (Sc 2.1.1), or any other future entities, still divided over nationalist versus Islamic lines, that could emerge from a renewed split in the Government of National Accord (GNA – a label used by the UN for the Libyan peace agreement framework). Continue reading Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (3) Egypt Intervenes on the Nationalist Side

Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Scenario 2 (2) – The Joint Arab Force Intervenes

This article is the second of our series focusing on scenarios depicting interventions in the Libyan war. As detailed previously we have reached the following stage in our sub-scenarios:

External actors have decided to militarily intervene in Libya by taking a side with either the GNC or COR (Sc 2.1.1). The League of Arab States (LAS) meets to decide about an intervention in Libya and to form the related Joint Arab Force. Considering the position of each country, the debates are very animated to say the least (Sc 2.1.1.1). As a result, the Arab League internally fragments over the decision to intervene. Nonetheless a Joint Arab Force is formed involving three countries, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan. It is about to start intervening in Libya. (Sc 2.1.1.1.1).

Scenario Libya intervention, war in Libya, future of Libya
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Sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.1.1 The Limited Joint Arab Force Intervention Succeeds as No Other External Actor gets Involved Meaningfully to Support the GNC

The Joint Arab Force deploys its air and ground forces to Libya in support of the Council of Representatives. It coordinates with General Haftar to target and eliminate Salafi groups while simultaneously engaging Dawn of Libya forces that quickly respond to intervention, as Dawn of Libya considers Haftar and the JAF intervention a greater threat to the GNC’s survival than the Islamic State. With General Haftar’s eager support, the JAF-COR coalition eliminates Salafi group strongholds in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte.

Denouncing international intervention in Libya – especially one that has partnered with General Haftar – the General National Congress and Dawn of Libya attempt to counter the JAF-COR coalition. However, Turkey and Qatar either decide not to provide any support to the GNC, or not to provide extensive support, which allows the GNC’s eventual defeat by the dominating JAF airpower and the coalition of JAF and Libyan military ground forces. Upon the conclusion of conflict, there is the potential for a peacebuilding mission as we assessed in Scenario 1.1.1.2.2. A peacebuilding mission would still include rebuilding and strengthening a Libyan military, as well as securing the borders and disarming and reintegrating militias into society. The primary differences would be the elimination of Salafi groups and the fall of the GNC during the intervention, which would make a peacekeeping mission more feasible.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.1.1.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The willingness to actually follow through with ground and air force contribution pledges. The JAF intervention will only be efficient with the promised contributions of ground and air forces from its participants, as the intervention planning during the previous phase was designed with an adequate number of promised troop contributions in mind.
  2. The level of conflict between Salafi groups. If Salafi groups are still diverting fighters and resources to fight each other (notably Islamic State vs. Al-Qaida), the likelihood of this scenario increases, as Salafi groups will be forced to fight a larger two-front war against both their Salafi rivals and the JAF-COR coalition. A past indication took place in the summer of 2015 when the Islamic State was drawn into conflicts with Al-Qaida affiliates and later expelled from the Salafi stronghold of Derna (BBC News, June 25, 2015; Laessing and al-Warfalli, Reuters, July 24, 2015).
  3. The level of external support for Salafi groups. An influx of external support in the form of foreign fighters, resources, and guidance would boost the operational capabilities of Islamic State and Al-Qaida groups in Libya – which would pose a problem for the JAF intervention. Past indications include reports of an influx of foreign recruits headed to Sirte, as well as reports of senior Islamic State leaders arriving in Libya (El-Ghobashy and Morajea, The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015; Crilly, The Telegraph, December 2, 2015).
  4. The GNC’s perception of the JAF intervention and its support of the COR. If the Joint Arab Force intervenes in favor of the COR (including General Haftar), the GNC will perceive the intervention as a direct threat to its legitimacy and survival, as well as a violation of Libya’s sovereignty – and thus will attempt to galvanize all the armed factions in its territory to oppose the intervention force. A past indication occurred when the GNC condemned Egypt’s airstrikes on Derna as “an assault against Libyan sovereignty” (Bayoumy, Reuters, February 16, 2015).
  5. Ability of the JAF-COR coalition to simultaneously combat Salafi groups and Dawn of Libya forces. The GNC will feel seriously threatened by a JAF-COR coalition, and will actively deploy its forces to counter the intervention. In the same way, Salafi groups actively begin operating against the intervention force – forcing the JAF-COR coalition to simultaneously combat an array of enemies. The likelihood of this scenario depends in part on the airpower of the JAF, cohesiveness and military planning of the JAF-COR coalition, and its ability to launch offensives on the Islamic State strongholds while simultaneously engaging the GNC’s forces (as the Islamic State strongholds would likely be the first objective for a JAF intervention led by Egypt).
  6. The willingness of external actors to continue backing the GNC, or to provide extensive support. Focused on its issues in Syria and with Russia, as well as strategically countering Iran, Turkey may decide to not get involved in countering a JAF intervention in Libya, and thus not send any support to the GNC (Brooker, ValueWalk, December 12, 2015). If the United Arab Emirates is a primary participant in the JAF intervention, Qatar will likely remain a supporter of the GNC, considering the UAE-Qatar foreign policy rivalry (Cafiero and Wagner, The National Interest, December 11, 2015). However, if Qatar decides not to provide extensive support to the GNC or put troops on the ground to counter the JAF intervention, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  7. The perception of Libyan tribes towards foreign troops on the ground. Considering the deep impact of colonization on Libya’s tribal groups, some may consider foreign troops on Libyan soil reminiscent of colonization. However, Egypt has already foreseen this issue, and organized a meeting in May 2015 with Libyan tribal leaders to “coordinate operations and guarantee safe passage for the Arab troops,” in the event of a Joint Arab Force intervention in Libya (Mustafa, DefenseNews, May 10, 2015). Egypt’s meeting with Libyan tribal leaders serves to “reinforce the credibility” of a JAF intervention, thus mitigating tensions between tribes and foreign troops, and increasing the likelihood of this scenario. However, tribes siding with the GNC will likely perceive an intervention in a negative light and be willing to fight against both JAF and COR troops (see Mitchell, “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II,” April 20, 2015).

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.1.2: The Joint Arab Force Intervention Results in Intensified, Protracted Conflict as Other External Actors get Involved to Support the GNC

Similar to the outset of scenario 2.1.1.1.1.1, the limited Joint Arab Force intervenes in Libya and backs the Council of Representatives in engaging Salafi groups and the GNC’s forces. However, in doing so, the JAF intervention revitalizes the conflict and forces the GNC to request extensive support from Turkey and Qatar as it repositions its forces to engage the JAF-COR coalition. Not wanting Islamist movements in Libya to be crushed, Qatar and Turkey provide support to the GNC, bulk up the GNC’s power by deploying forces under the pretext of countering Salafi threats in Libya, or go to war entirely. Any of these responses by Turkey and Qatar result in a protracted JAF intervention with fierce opposition by Dawn of Libya and their tribal allies. Turkish or Qatari military action against JAF forces also has the potential to ignite a regional conflict (see below).

Facing an intervention force, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State call for external support to bolster their forces in Libya with an influx of fighters and resources. With stronger external support and well-established strongholds from which to launch operations and expand territory, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State put increased pressure on the JAF and COR, which intensifies and prolongs the conflict.

Whether the GNC alone gains significant external support, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State alone gain significant external support, or both receive external support, the likelihood for an intensified, protracted conflict increases.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.1.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The willingness of external actors to provide additional support to the GNC. If the United Arab Emirates is a primary participant in the JAF intervention, Qatar will likely consider increasing its support for the GNC, considering the UAE-Qatar foreign policy rivalry (Cafiero and Wagner, The National Interest, December 11, 2015). Turkey may increase its support for the GNC, and possibly even deploy troops, if Saudi Arabia is not an active participant or supporting member of this JAF intervention, which would allow Turkey to expand its influence in the region without actively combatting Saudi Arabia (see Bokhari, Stratfor, May 5, 2015 for current Saudi-Turkish relations and regional goals).
  2. The level of external support for the GNC. If Turkey and Qatar are willing to boost their support for the GNC, their level of support will impact the likelihood of this scenario. Increasing arms shipments and vital resources shipments will help the GNC, but it may not be enough. If Turkey and Qatar decide that countering the JAF-COR coalition is strategically worth it, they may provide the GNC with air support, and possibly even ground troops if they plan to overtly fight the JAF-COR coalition. Air support and ground troops from these external actors increase the likelihood of this scenario occurring.
  3. The willingness of the Joint Arab Force to stay in Libya and fight a protracted conflict. The members of the Joint Arab Force intervention consider Libya a strategic situation that must be dealt with, lest that part of the region become completely destabilized and spread to their countries. Egypt, in particular, faces the most risk of a failed Libyan state and Salafi threats emanating from its next-door neighbor. If the JAF members are determined to side with the COR and eliminate Salafi threats despite the potential of protracted conflict, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  4. The inability to eliminate Salafi strongholds. If Islamic State and Al-Qaida leadership divert large numbers of jihadists and resources to Libya, the JAF may be unable to eliminate all the Salafi strongholds and be forced to abandon the intervention for fear of turning it into a bloody, drawn out conflict that further destabilizes the region.
  5. Indicators 3, 4, 5, 7 for sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.1.1 also act here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.1.2.1: General Conflagration of the Region

The limited deployments of Qatari and Turkish forces, or full-scale war against the JAF (who remain committed to staying and fighting) would likely cause general conflagration of the whole region and significantly impact the current geopolitical paradigm.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.1.2.2: The Joint Arab Force Intervention Fails, Forces a Withdrawal

Not wanting to remain in Libya for a drawn-out, bloody intervention with only a limited number of members, the Joint Arab Force withdraws its forces, and the intervention fails. After withdrawing, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan may decide to provide substantial support to the COR in other ways, but they no longer desire to keep intervention forces on the ground in Libya.

Sub-scenario 2.1.1.1.2 No Agreement Possible, No Joint Arab Force Created to Intervene for COR

The debate over whether to intervene in Libya or not came to an end when the pro-interventionist member states of the Arab League (Egypt, UAE, Jordan) abandon the creation of a Joint Arab Force, as they lack Saudi support and are instead asked to participate in Saudi Arabia’s newly announced counter-terrorism coalition to combat Al-Qaida and Islamic State threats (Omran and Fitch, The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2015). Not wanting to launch an independent intervention without additional support, Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan consider Saudi Arabia’s new counterterrorism coalition less of a risk, but perhaps still able to provide Libya with assistance to combat Salafi threats (although they would not intervene for the COR).

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.1.1.1.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The level of Saudi support for a Joint Arab Force. With the creation of its new counter-terrorism coalition, Saudi Arabia is highly unlikely to participate or support a Joint Arab Force at this point. Without Saudi backing, and with a larger coalition whose mission is counter-terrorism rather than intervention and backing particular governments, the likelihood of this scenario increases.
  2. The level of risk between joining a Joint Arab Force or the Saudi-formed anti-terror coalition. If Egypt, the UAE, and Jordan consider the Saudi-formed coalition far less of a risk (considering the member states involved and the levels of support), they may abandon the idea of a Joint Arab Force and instead offer to combat Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Libya through the counterterrorism coalition – thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario.

Bibliography

Featured Photo: Egyptian helicopters unload troops by SSgt. Cherie Thurlby, U.S. Air Force [Public Domain] via Wikimedia, October 25, 2001

Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch, “Saudi Arabia Forms Muslim Antiterror Coalition,” The Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2015

Awad Mustafa, “Arab Chiefs To Meet on Libya Intervention,” DefenseNews, May 10, 2015

Giorgio Cafiero and Daniel Wagner, “How the Gulf Arab Rivalry Tore Libya Apart,” The National Interest, December 11, 2015

“Islamic State moves in on al-Qaeda turf,” BBC News, June 25, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War II,” The Red Team Analysis Society, April 20, 2015

Kamran Bokhari, “Why Sunni Unity Is a Myth,” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, May 5, 2015

Rob Crilly, “Islamic State is building a ‘retreat zone’ in Libya with 3000 fighters, say UN experts,” The Telegraph, December 2, 2015

Stephen Paul Brooker, “Russia vs. Turkey: Competition For Influence,” ValueWalk, December 12, 2015

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Hassan Morajea, “Islamic State Tightens Grip on Libyan Stronghold of Sirte,” The Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2015

Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli, “Expulsion from Derna bastion may show limits for Islamic State in Libya,” Reuters, July 24, 2015

Yara Bayoumy, “Tripoli-based parliament says Egyptian strike assault on sovereignty: spokesman,” Reuters, February 16, 2015