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Libyan War Spills Over to Europe, Algeria, and Niger – Sc 2.2 (1) – Scenarios for the Future of Libya

This article is the first of our series focusing on scenarios depicting the range of spillover that could stem from the Libyan war. In our previous article, we concluded the scenarios for international intervention in light of a fragmenting unity government. In this article, we shall focus on scenarios related to conflict spillover in only one direction (towards Europe), and then spillover in two directions (west towards Algeria and south towards Niger).

These scenarios are grounded in the premises that the evolution of the civil war leads to spillover. As a result, the war changes from an internal civil war within the bounds of Libyan borders with a measure of external involvement, to a renewed war that encompasses more than just Libya. Indeed, the war now includes all the territories where it spread. The type and intensity of the spillover will also determine how actors – notably those which are newly involved as a result of the spillover – will respond, and inevitably, the fate of the war.

It is important to note our choices for spillover sub-scenarios. There are many combinations that could occur under spillover conditions, but we have chosen three examples that maybe considered as ideal-types with particular country cases for the sake of brevity: spillover in only one direction (north towards Europe), spillover in two directions (Algeria/Niger), and spillover in all directions (Algeria/Niger/Egypt/Europe). Furthermore, the intensity of and response to spillover plays a key role in these sub-scenarios. The renewed war – now encompassing new actors outside of Libya – is altered significantly as intensity and response levels rise. However, we shall only briefly outline these scenarios, as they are fundamentally new conflicts and would require new scenarios to fully understand their depth.

Click to access larger image

Migrant/Refugee Terminology: For the purposes of the spillover scenarios, we have chosen to use the BBC’s use of the term “migrant”, which refers to people migrating to other countries that have not yet received asylum (BBC News, March 4, 2016). However, we use the term “refugee” when referring to Libyans fleeing the 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.

Sub-scenario 2.2 Spillover

External military support (for example, see Terrill, Strategic Studies Institute, December 2008 pgs. 2-4 for the effects of external military support in Iraq), the tribal character of the war, with tribal “land” overriding modern states boundaries, migrant flow, the fragility of states in the region, and Salafist threats with their global claims and connections originating from Libya are the primary factors that contribute to the potential spillover. Conflict spillover from Libya affects potentially some states significantly more than others, depending on geography and stability level, as well as on the factors mentioned above.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The stability level of bordering countries. If bordering countries suffer from instability, they are more susceptible to spillover effects than more stable countries. The lower the stability level of a state, the more likely this scenario will occur. For example, Niger is already plagued by the Boko Haram threat, institutional weakness, lack of development, and a deteriorating political climate, which makes it highly susceptible to experiencing spillover from the Libyan conflict (Jezequel and Cherbib, International Crisis Group, February 19, 2016; Melly and Shepherd, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 19, 2016).
  2. The pattern and intensity of migrant flows. The more migrant routes that go into Europe affect how difficult it is to stop the migrant flow. Multiple migrant routes spanning the width of the Mediterranean is harder to stop than only having to focus on one or two concentrated routes. Furthermore, the intensity of migrant flows through each route also affects the likelihood of this scenario. High-traveled routes increase the likelihood of significant spillover.
  3. The level of external support for Libyan actors. By backing particular Libyan actors in the conflict (whether through funding, weapons, military training, or partnering), external actors increase the likelihood of spillover. Particularly with Al-Qaida and Islamic State actors involved, external actors may fall victim to terrorist attacks on their home soil – depending on who they support and their level of support. A past indication occurred when Islamic State militants executed 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya (Mullen, CNN, February 16, 2015) – sending a clear message to Egypt, who has faithfully backed General Haftar’s forces throughout the conflict.
  4. The strength of transnational tribal ties. As discussed in Tribal Dynamics and Civil War I, II, and III, tribalism plays a significant role in Libya. Any conflict involving the Tuareg or Toubou runs the risk of spilling over throughout the region – considering their tribal ties extend across various state borders in North Africa. Conflict between the Tuareg and Toubou over vital smuggling routes, in particular, increases the likelihood of spillover.
  5. The length of the war in Libya. The longer the war in Libya continues, the higher the likelihood that it spills over. The length of war increases the number of refugees, potentially allows Salafist groups the time to expand their capabilities, and creates a demand for transnational arms and militant smuggling.

Sub-scenario 2.2.1 The Conflict Spills Over to the North (Europe)

Having to fight each other, as well as jihadist elements (although the Islamic State may be losing strength in Sirte at the moment, this scenario focuses on Libya 3-5 years from now, when Al-Qaida and Islamic State groups may regain strength), the Islamists and nationalists focus more on retaining territory than securing the borders to stop the migrant flow. As a result, the masses of migrants headed into Libya are able to more easily cross the Mediterranean into Europe. European countries – who are already dealing with Libyan war refugees leaving Libya because of the war, as well as the migrant flow from Turkey – experience this spillover effect on a large-scale by sea from war-torn Libya. The migrant spillover also contributes to the terrorism spillover, in that Salafist groups utilize the migrant flow from Libya to infiltrate European countries and carry out attacks. As the Islamic State groups in Libya face mounting pressure from the other Libyan actors, they funnel small cells of jihadists to Europe using the migrant route. The jihadists then begin targeting European populations as an alternative to fighting the war in Libya. Furthermore, the deployment of European advisers and Special Forces in support of Libyan actors against Salafist threats also results in jihadists attacking European targets.

Faced with increasing flows of migrants from Libya, and with new attacks carried out by perpetrators who can be traced originally to Libya, Europe works to stem the flow by deploying naval and coast guard units in the Mediterranean to intercept migrant boats and turn them back. It also attempts to compensate African countries on migratory routes to harbor migrants in an effort to prevent them from entering Libya in the first place. If Europe is unsuccessful in stopping the migrant flow, jihadists continue to enter as migrants in order to carry out deadly attacks on European populations while recruiting radicalized natural-born European citizens to carry out additional operations. A new type of war encompassing both Libya and Europe continues developing.

If successful in mitigating the migrant flow (and by default, restricting the ability of jihadists to enter by sea), the entry of Europe in the conflict through spillover now changes the conflict in Libya. With less opportunity to infiltrate Europe using the migrant routes from the Tripoli and Benghazi areas, the Salafists begin shifting their operatives to increasingly target government and military officials of the Islamists and nationalists. This shift in strategy forces the rival governments to heighten security around their political centers, and to divert more military forces against Salafist groups. Furthermore, the masses of migrants and Libyan refugees stuck in Tripoli and Benghazi, as well as in the south of Libya, contribute to instability in those areas, with some turning to armed groups as an alternative. Large groups of migrants and Libyan refugees may even head south or southwest to cross the borders into Algeria or Niger (see scenario below).

Lastly, European oil investments and imports from Libya continue being negatively affected as the nationalists, Islamists, and Salafist groups fight for control over Libya’s vital oil fields and production facilities. The surge in Salafist attacks and increased conflict over oil resources drastically impacts the willingness and ability of European companies to invest in Libyan oil and import it, which economically hurts both the Islamists and nationalists that are trying to export oil for funds.

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.2.1 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. Remaining unchecked pockets of Salafists on Libyan territory. The existence of unchecked Salafist groups in Libya would increase the likelihood to see Salafist groups maneuvering to funnel jihadists into Europe. Furthermore, it would also impact both possible outcomes. If Europe fails to stop the migrant flows, the new conflict born out of the spill over persists and intensifies. Alternatively, if the migrant flows are stopped, these same groups could more easily target Libyan government and military officials of both the Islamists and nationalists.
  2. The existence of naval patrols in the Mediterranean trying to stem the flow of migrants. Europe’s ability to mitigate the migrant flow depends heavily on border closings for landlocked countries, and a naval presence in the Mediterranean for coastal countries. The existence of naval patrols in the Mediterranean would probably increase the likelihood of mitigating migrant flow, although the current attempt – named Operation Sophia – has produced questionable results (see Rossi, skyNEWS, June 16, 2016).
  3. The level of pressure on Salafist groups. The level of pressure against Salafist groups may affect their willingness to smuggle jihadists into Europe posing as refugees. If Al-Qaida and Islamic State strongholds are weakened, and their influence waning, they may resort to sending some of their members to Europe as an alternative to fighting a losing struggle in Libya. A past indication occurred when forces under the unity government made significant progress against the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte (Rossi, skyNEWS, June 16, 2016).
  4. The ability of Salafist groups in Libya to smuggle jihadists in to Europe. If Salafist groups on the coast are able to fill a boat with migrants (along with a few undercover jihadists) and sail towards a highly trafficked migrant sea route towards Europe, the likelihood of spillover increases. With so many migrants stuck waiting on Libya’s shore, it would not be difficult to deceive a group of migrants into paying for a boat trip to Italy.
  5. The deployment of European advisers and Special Forces in support of Libyan actors. If European advisers or Special Forces are operating in Libya – regardless of whom they support – the likelihood of spillover increases. With Salafist groups fighting militias from both sides, they will be inclined to attack European targets for simply operating in the country – regardless of which side. Past indications occurred when French and British Special Forces teams began operating in Libya (BBC News, May 26, 2016; Sputnik News, February 26, 2016).
  6. The position of the Libyan governments regarding migrants. Similar to President Erdogan’s exploitation of the migrant crisis for monetary gain (Berger, New Eastern Outlook, March 4, 2016), the Islamist and nationalist governments may offer to increase border security and develop more migrant detention camps in exchange for compensation. If European governments are desperate enough to make a deal with the Libyan governments, the Libyan governments will in turn rely on their militias to run the migrant camps. If both the Libyan and European governments are willing to partner for the sake of keeping migrants in Libya, the likelihood of spillover decreases.
  7. Europe awareness and willingness to address fully the evolving nature of the war. If Europe is not aware, or is unwilling, to properly address the renewed war, the likelihood of significant spillover increases. European leadership may simply not recognize the full danger of renewed conflict; or if it does, but delays in responding, it will likely feel the full effects and have to invest even more willpower and resources to mitigate war.
  8. The level of conflict over Libya’s oil resources. Conflict between the Islamists, nationalists, and Islamic State groups affect Libyan oil exports, and thus affect global oil prices. Islamic State attacks on oil facilities, combined with back-and-forth captures of oil fields by Islamist and nationalist forces, increase the likelihood of economic spillover in the world’s oil sector (Faucon and Said, The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2016; al-Warfalli, Reuters, March 3, 2015). A previous indication occurred when clashes near the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil terminals affected oil prices in late May 2016 (Tuttle, Bloomberg, May 29, 2016).
  9. Indicator 2 of scenario 2.2 also acts here in a similar way.

Sub-scenario 2.2.2 Conflict Spills Over to the West (Algeria) and South (Niger)

Algerian troops protecting the border, posted on the Military of Algeria Facebook page, 7 June 2016

With both Libya and Algeria unable to fully secure their shared border, Libyan migrants make their way into Algeria. Since Malian and Syrian migrants significantly outnumber the Libyan migrants in Algeria, the continuous flow of Libyan migrants into the country is a minor spillover effect. The primary spillover comes from terrorism, arms smuggling, and trans-national tribal ties.

Map by the Norwegian Center for Global Analysis (NGCA) in NCGA and Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Libya: Criminal economies and terrorist financing in the trans-Sahara, May 2015 – click for larger image

Although cross-border arms and drug smuggling in Libya’s southern and south-western areas is not a new phenomenon, Libya’s civil war and the growth of extremist groups in the region make smuggling across the Libyan-Algerian border more concerning. Islamist militants also use the smuggling routes to infiltrate Libya and join Salafist groups operating there. Facing constant instability and threats from Libya, Algeria tries to divert more security forces to the border areas. Meanwhile, the Islamist militants trying to cross the Algerian-Libyan border to join Libya’s war turn to the extremist groups already operating in Algeria, and begin bulking up their capabilities. Furthermore, renewed conflict between the Tuareg and Toubou over the lucrative smuggling routes push some of the Tuareg in Algeria to cross the border and assist their Libyan counterparts, which then prompts Toubou fighters from Niger and Chad to join the fray – thus turning the Southern Libyan conflict into a regional conflict between tribal forces.

Similar to Algeria, Niger falls victim to tribal spillover from the Libyan conflict – particularly, the tribal conflict in Southern Libya for control of vital smuggling routes. As a result, both Tuareg and Toubou fighters from Niger cross the border to assist their Libyan tribesmen. The severity of tribal conflict in Southern Libya determines whether or not conflict breaks out between the Tuareg and Toubou within Niger’s borders. Furthermore, the Islamists’ and nationalists’ progress against the Salafist groups, as well as the threat of strong international intervention, prompts some jihadists to relocate their area of operations to Niger. The level of progress against Salafists also impacts the militants that are headed north towards Libya through Niger. If the Salafists are steadily losing territory, militants may forego Libya and attempt to connect with extremist groups already operating in Niger. Considering Niger’s instability and already existing threat of Boko Haram, the increase of jihadists arriving from Libya prompts a serious military response and increased operations near the Niger-Libyan border.

Map of Toubou populations by ArnoldPlaton [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia

Indicators to Monitor

Below are the main indicators we identified that impact the likelihood to see scenario 2.2.2 occurring. They should thus be monitored.

  1. The capacity of Europe to stop the flow of migrants (see previous scenario). As discussed in the previous scenario, Europe’s ability to stop the flow of migrants affects the likelihood of spillover to the south or southwest. However, the current attempt to stop this flow may actually be exacerbating the situation (see Rossi, skyNEWS, June 16, 2016). Furthermore, there are an estimated 800,000 migrants waiting on Libya’s shore to cross the Mediterranean (O’Reilly, Gulf News, May 29, 2016). If Europe is unable to stop this massive flow of migrants from Libya, the likelihood of this scenario decreases.
  2. The level of progress to combat Salafist groups in Libya. If Salafist groups begin to significantly weaken and lose territory in Northern Libya, and particularly if Europe has cut off the migrant flow across the Mediterranean, they may turn south or southwest and cross into neighboring countries. A past indication occurred when forces under the unity government made significant progress against the Islamic State stronghold of Sirte (Rossi, skyNEWS, June 16, 2016).
  3. The ability of militants to use smuggling routes to infiltrate Libya. By utilizing heavily trafficked trade routes through Algeria and Niger (see The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, May 11, 2015), militants can infiltrate through Southern Libya and head north to connect with prominent Salafist groups there. The lack of border security and the lucrative business of the trade routes for tribes in the area allow for these militants to cross in to Libya. A past indication occurred when up to 1,000 Boko Haram fighters utilized smuggling routes to join Islamic State groups in Libya (Paton, International Business Times, March 5, 2016).
  4. The ability of Algeria to efficiently patrol its border. If Algeria is unable to efficiently patrol its border, the likelihood of spillover increases. Arms trafficking and Islamic militants pose a problem for Algeria’s 1,000km long border with Libya. Algeria’s Minister for Maghreb Affairs has stressed the importance of securing the border areas between his country and Libya – citing fears of spillover, while Algeria’s Deputy Defense Minister has heightened border security in the recent past (Karuri, AfricaNews, May 2, 2016; Reuters, March 14, 2016). Algeria has deployed additional troops to the border, and reportedly uses surveillance drones to spot arms traffickers and militant activity (Reuters, March 14, 2016). Increased efforts have thus far uncovered a cache of weapons near the Libyan border and captured members of a Libyan arms smuggling network operating near the border (NewsGhana, May 30, 2016; Albawaba News, May 19, 2016). However, the increased security efforts could also inadvertently increase the strength of extremist groups in Algeria, as militants attempting to cross in to Libya are cut off by the increased military presence.
  5. The real stability of Algeria. Algeria’s stability will determine its ability to effectively respond to Libyan spillover. Although Algeria ramped up its security measures on the border (see indicator above), its economy has suffered as a result of low global oil prices (Fakir and Ghanem-Yazbeck, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 11, 2016). Rising unemployment, corruption, and an “overbearing state bureaucracy” have incited social unrest (Serrano, Foreign Affairs, May 27, 2016). If the trend of social unrest and an increasingly fragile economy continue, Algeria may become more susceptible to spillover.
  6. The willingness of jihadists to relocate to Niger. Jihadists would likely only be willing to relocate to Niger if they face significant pressure in Libya and their groups are on the verge of defeat. Their willingness to travel to Niger instead of fighting to the end increases the likelihood of this scenario. A past indication occurred when Islamic State militants reportedly left their strongholds in Northern Libya and began migrating south towards Niger and Chad (Farge, Reuters, February 11, 2016).
  7. The stability of Niger. Niger’s stability level will play a significant role in how much it will be affected by Libyan spillover. It currently faces jihadist threats – particularly by Boko Haram, political tension, drought, food insecurity, poverty, and “economic fragility” (Shepherd and Melly, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 2016) – thus increasing the likelihood of this scenario.
  8. Niger’s control over its territory. The inability to efficiently control its own territory makes Niger more susceptible to spillover effects. The fact that one of the major smuggling routes in the region goes through the Nigerien-Libyan border is indicative of Niger’s inability to control that sector (The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, May 11, 2015). A past indication of failing to control its territory occurred when Niger struggled to control the Lake Chad region during a Boko Haram bombing campaign in 2015 (Shepherd and Melly, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 2016).
  9. The severity of conflict between the Tuareg and Toubou in Southern Libya. High levels of conflict between the Tuareg and Toubou will increase the likelihood of this scenario. Fighting for strategic control of vital trade routes in Southern Libya may turn into a regional conflict between the tribes, which would certainly expand into neighboring Niger. A past indication occurred when the Tuareg and Toubou heavily fought for control over Ubari, the nearby oil fields, and the cross-border trade routes in the area (Murray, Middle East Eye, January 17, 2015).
  10. The willingness of Tuareg and Toubou in bordering countries to cross in to Libya. The willingness of these tribes to cross the border into Libya and join the conflict depends on the severity of the conflict (see indicator above) and the strength of the tribal ties – likely on the familial level. A past indication occurred when Toubou tribesmen in Chad crossed in to Libya to help their cousins fight the Zawiya (CapitalNews, March 22, 2012).

Bibliography

Featured Photo: Syrian and Iraq refugees arrive in Lesvos, Greece, by Ggia [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia

Alex Rossi, “EU Operation ‘Encourages’ Illegal Migrants,” skyNews, June 16, 2016

Alex Rossi, “Libyan Forces Edge Closer To Victory In Sirte,” skyNews, June 16, 2016

“Algerian troops uncover weapons in Adrar province,” NewsGhana, May 30, 2016

“Algerian security forces break up Libyan arms smuggling ring,” Albawaba News, May 19, 2016

“Algeria’s military chief calls alert over Libyan frontier,” Reuters, March 14, 2016

Ayman al-Warfalli, “UPDATE 4-Rival Libyan forces carry out air strikes, militants storm oilfield,” Reuters, March 3, 2015

Benoit Faucon and Summer Said, “Islamic State Poses Growing Threat to Libya’s Oil Industry,” The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2016

Callum Paton, “Isis in Libya: How Boko Haram jihadis are flocking to join Daesh’s holy war in North Africa,” International Business Times, March 5, 2016

“Commons committee chairman urges clarity over UK special forces in Libya,” BBC News, May 26, 2016

Emma Farge, “Islamic State fighters head south in Libya, threatening Sahel,” Reuters, February 11, 2016

“France’s ‘Secret War’ in Libya Unravels Amid Fresh Allegations,” Sputnik News, February 26, 2016

Francisco Serrano, “Algeria on the Brink?” Foreign Affairs, May 27, 2016

Intissar Fakir and Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, “Running Low: Algeria’s Fiscal Challenges and Implications for Stability,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 11, 2016

Jean-Herve Jezequel and Hamza Cherbib, “Presidential Elections in Niger: Tense Climate, Uncertain Future,” International Crisis Group, February 19, 2016

Jethro Mullen, “Egyptian warplanes bomb ISIS targets in Libya after killings of Christians,” CNN, February 16, 2015

Jon Mitchell, “Scenarios for the Future of Libya – Sc 2 (9) Fragmentation and International Intervention,” The Red Team Analysis Society, May 31, 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

Ken Karuri, “Algeria pledges to develop areas along Libyan border,” AfricaNews, May 2, 2016

“Libya: a growing hub for Criminal Economies and Terrorist Financing in the Trans-Sahara,” The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, May 11, 2015

“Libya ethnic conflict risks spilling over borders,” CapitalNews, March 22, 2012

Martin Berger, “How Much Money Will Erdogan Make from the EU Migration Crisis?” New Eastern Outlook, March 4, 2016

Mick O’Reilly, “New wave of refugees ready to leave Libya,” Gulf News, May 29, 2016

“Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in seven charts,” BBC News, March 4, 2016

Paul Melly and Ben Shepherd, “Stability and vulnerability in the Sahel: the regional roles and internal dynamics of Chad and Niger,” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, April 2016

Rebecca Murray, “Battle rages in Libya’s southwest desert,” Middle East Eye, February 13, 2015

Robert Tuttle, “Oil Rises as Libya Fighting Flares Up Before OPEC Meets,” Bloomberg, May 29, 2016

W. Andrew Terrill, “Regional Spillover Effects of the Iraq War,” Strategic Studies Institute, December 2008

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.

Click to access larger image

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

War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (2)

Throughout their history (see “Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (1)“), Libya’s tribes have not been based exclusively on systematic tribalism, but rather on a flexible tribal ideology that is grounded in identity and shifts according to circumstances and practical opportunities. This shifting tribal ideology makes the non-Arab tribes different from the majority of the actors in Northern Libya, who are more or less bound by religious or political ideology – and thus ally with similar groups.

Furthermore, tribalism naturally produces “nepotism and favoritism” amongst tribal groups and families (Varvelli, ISPI, May 2013), but Libya’s minority tribes have also shown that they can unite to protest shared grievances, as we shall see below. The Amazigh (Berber), Toubou, and Tuareg tribes have been culturally marginalized, denied citizenship rights, and lack political representation, which remain sources of contention (see Toubou media Facebook page, February 19, 2015, March 24, 2015 posts; and Tuareg media Facebook page, September 9, 2014 post). As a result, the tribal grievances constructed over history, including during the Qaddafi regime and the post-revolutionary era, as well as conflict over vital trade networks in the South, are now significant variables in Libya’s civil war.

In this post, we shall discuss the post-Qaddafi era Amazigh and Tuareg tribes, and to what extent they might impact Libya’s future. Our forthcoming post will focus on the Toubou and Arab tribes.

[Check also “The Islamic State in Libya – When Libyan Tribes Pledge Allegiance to the Khalifah, and The Islamic State in Libya – Force, Fighters and Tribes, by H Lavoix, April & May 2016).] Continue reading War in Libya and Its Futures – Tribal Dynamics and Civil War (2)