Just when you thought it was safe to plan that Libyan vacation

ISIS is reportedly down to its “last stand” in the Libyan city of Sirte, left controlling only about “two blocks,” which at the rate that operation is going could mean another three months of fighting. Still, it’s good news.

Here, on the other hand, is something that is not good news:

Rival armed factions battled for a second day on Friday in the worst outbreak of fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli for more than a year.

Black smoke rose into the sky and explosions reverberated around the Abu Salim and Hadba districts, and a witness said a major road nearby had been blocked off with shipping containers.

Gunfire echoed across several other neighborhoods, only dying down towards the evening.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of clarity about who is fighting whom other than the vague talk of “rival militias.” That could mean anything. One possibility is that militias supporting the internationally recognized Government of National Accord are clashing with militias favorable to the mostly unrecognized “Government of National Salvation,” a rival claimant that seemed to have backed off when the GNA came to town but has since reemerged as a potential threat. Another possibility is that the GNS has nothing to do with this fighting, and that instead of threatening the GNA these militias are merely demonstrating to Libya and the rest of the world that the GNA can’t even control its own capital city, let alone the rest of the country. Either way it doesn’t do much to boost the GNA’s prestige, which was already waning due to the fact that very little in Libya has actually improved since the GNA was formed.

The GNA is (was?) the best bet for a unified Libya that wasn’t ruled by a military strongman, since their international recognition allowed them to approach Khalifa Haftar and the Tobruk government on something of an equal footing. If it collapses then there’s a strong chance you’ll see more or less universal international acclaim for Haftar to just take the country over while maintaining some fig leaf semblance of democracy, akin to what Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has done in neighboring Egypt. That will mean that the 2011 intervention to oust Muammar Gaddafi will have come full circle by installing another military dictator to replace him. And by “full circle” I mean he’ll even come complete with the potential to cause a brand new humanitarian crisis in Benghazi.



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