Last week, we took a look at insurgencies spanning from Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Syria and Iraq, including the Kurdish-population area in Turkey. We examined factions operating in these countries, what their goals or ideologies are, who they’re fighting against and who they’re aligned with. Groups operating in these countries include Boko Haram, the PKK, Al-Shabaab, Al-Nusra, ISIS and others. This week we’ll look at other countries dealing with issues ranging from insurgencies to civil wars.
Libya (Capital – Tripoli):
Incumbent Head of State/Government: Disputed
Libya is a North African nation along the Mediterranean coast. To the south is the Sahara desert, Niger and Chad. To the east, the Libyan Desert separates the country from Egypt, and to the west and north lay Algeria and Tunisia. Muammar al-Gaddafi was the leader of the country until 2011, rising to power in a 1969 coup d’etat against Libya’s formerly established monarchy. Gaddafi was ousted as leader in the 2011 Arab Spring and was killed in the streets by a mob. Libya was one of Africa’s richest nations, and also had ties at times to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Irish Republican Army and the African National Congress (under Nelson Mandela, which as political opposition to the apartheid, were considered radical at the time).
The conflict in Libya is characterized by (post-Gaddafi) political instability and discordance as to who has a legitimate claim to govern. The political divisions generally fall along the lines of Islamist and anti-Islamist blocs, each supported by military groups or armed militias. The replacement interim government in 2011 was the National Transitional Council (NTC). The Libyan government is formed around a parliamentary legislature called the General National Congress (GNC). The current instability surrounds is not only ISIS cells in various cities and ISIS-seized territory near Sirte, but as two main political factions both claim legitimacy to form the government. This conflict came to a head when a new government was elected to power in 2014 (referred below as the Incumbent GNC), ousting an Islamist coalition. They had criticized the previous government over the rise of armed Islamic groups such as those who carried out the September 11 (2012) attack in Benghazi in which American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Criticism of the government went along a spectrum from not being tough on these groups to being actively complicit in their expansion. The commencement of Shari’a law implementation proved to be another divisive policy. The rub is that the 2014 election was contested due to a very low voter turnout and regions where voting did not take place because of security reasons. Factions loyal to the previous (pre-2014 election) Islamist government then rebelled and seized Tripoli, laying claim as the legitimate government on the grounds that the election was unconstitutional. This group will be referred to as the New GNC/Libya Dawn. Due to the nature of Libya’s political split, both sides will be considered factions for the purposes of this article. There are essentially four factions including ISIS vying for territorial control.
Incumbent GNC: This was the parliamentary government elected in 2014, also called the Council of Deputies. They are led by President Aguila Saleh Issa, and headquartered in Tobruk after fleeing Tripoli due to its seizure by the New GNC/Libya Dawn. The Libyan National Army, under the command of Khalifa Haftar, is the Incumbent GNC’s military arm. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support the Incumbent GNC including the use of air assaults, and militias such as the Zintani brigades and tribal militias are allied with the Libyan National Army. The Libyan National Army launched a campaign dubbed Operation Dignity in 2014 against the New GNC/Libya Dawn but agreed to a ceasefire in early 2015. Of the two governments, the Incumbent GNC receives the most international recognition.
New GNC/Libya Dawn: The New GNC is made up of a political bloc led by President Nouri Abusahmain and Prime Minister Khalifa al-Ghawi. Elected as government in 2012, the main subset of this political faction are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Following their loss in 2014, the New GNC used the Libya Shield Force and Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) armed militias to seize Tripoli. Libya Shield Force was formed during the first Libyan civil war in opposition to Gaddafi, and are purported to have links to Al-Qaeda since 2012. The LROR is an armed Islamist group that was set up by Libyan President Nouri Abusahmain in 2013. Abusahmain was accused of corruption in funding the LROR and using armed intimidation to consolidate power, including the kidnapping of the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. Abusahmain had also tried to extend its political mandate unilaterally. The Tauregs and Amazigh militias support the New GNC/Libya Dawn in the West and Southwest of the country. The Tauregs are ethnic Berbers, an ancient culture of generally nomadic peoples with a religion significantly influenced by Sunni Islam. They would not be considered Islamic imperialists, but support the New GNC/Libya Dawn out of loyalty to Abusahmain (a Berber/Amazigh) and due to opposition of Zintani influence in Western Libya. International backing for the New GNC comes from Qatar, Sudan and Turkey.
Shura Councils (Benghazi, Derna, Ajdabiya): These city or regional groups are Islamist in nature, but have remained relatively independent of ISIS and both GNCs. They are composed of Islamist militias, and though their allegiances and alliances are murky or fluctuating at best depending on the city/region, Shura Councils would be considered more sympathetic to the New GNC/Libya Dawn faction. The Youth Shura Council in Derna is in allegiance to ISIS, but other groups actively fight against ISIS’s influence. A significant militia in the Shura Councils is Ansar Al-Sharia. Ansar Al-Sharia is affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and would be considered a Salafist Jihadist. They were the group accused of the Benghazi consulate attack in 2012, an attack they deny orchestrating but don’t deny participation in what they called a “spontaneous uprising”. Ansar Al-Sharia operates in Libya and Tunisia. They are more belligerent towards the Incumbent GNC, and their affiliation with al-Qaeda would be one significant reason for opposition to ISIS.
ISIS (ISIL-Libya Province): Rising out of the lack of political stability in the country, some Libyan Islamists turned their support to ISIS. The Islamic state operates with territorial control or city-based cells in Sirte, Benghazi, Barqa, Fezzan province, al Bayda, al-Khums, Tripoli and the Tripolitania province.
The Brock Press