A New Conflict in the East? Jadhran, Haftar, and the Battles over Benghazi, Tripoli, and Sirte
Paradoxically, the moment of the GNA’s approach closer towards victory against IS in Sirte is also a moment of a key defeat in its legitimacy. The political process in Libya remains derailed, and the UN-mediated Government of National Accord continues to lose legitimacy despite the successes achieved against IS in Sirte in its name. This observation was recognised by the UN envoy Martin Kobler in a recent interview, saying that popular support for the GNA is crumbling with much of the early support for the GNA evaporating due to worsening economic and security woes. What Kobler didn’t mention is that it is largely his failed implemenation of Leon’s flawed plan which has gotten us towards this point. Kobler has shown a German dogmatism for sticking towards the letter of the law of the LPA without understand that it was meant to bring Libya’s key power blocs on board which it has failed to do.
A War between the LNA and the PFG in Zeuitina remains a high risk as the LNA is trying to bleed away support from Jadhran and undermine GNA influence in the East.
Politically the GNA is unlikely to receive any significant boost in legitimacy or governance effectiveness until a total victory is achieved by Banyan Marsus-affiliated Misratan forces in Sirte. However, this may make or break the GNA, as pro- and anti-GNA factions (especially hard-line Islamists) begin to jostle already in the capital to position themselves to take advantage of the outcome.
After Sirte is declared liberated, serious rifts within GNA-affiliated militias are highly likely, between those supporting a full attack against Haftar, and those wishing to oust Islamist militias from Tripoli. Although it ought to be a boost for the GNA to liberate Sirte, it is likely that the victorious militias will defy GNA rulings and expose the fact that the GNA is not actually a unity of anything.