Fighting Islamic State in Libya
Writing about Banyan Marsus’s operation to retake Sirte from the Islamic State and the breakthroughs of June 9, The Economist has done what it excels at: condensing a very complex story into a readable and succinct overview.
Now the jihadists are hitting back in an attempt to retake the port and other areas. Hundreds of its fighters, many from abroad, remain holed up in Sirte. The GNA’s offensive has stalled. Its forces, made up mostly of militias from Misrata, in the west, have thus far shown a willingness to take casualties. More than 100 of their men have died and some 500 have been injured. But in order to clear Sirte of jihadists, more sacrifice will be needed…. Many of the group’s leaders are thought to have slipped out of Sirte and gone south. The GNA had threatened its offensive for weeks, so the jihadists knew it was coming. Though aided by American and British soldiers, who are helping with logistics and intelligence, the GNA’s forces failed to secure all of the routes out of Sirte. That would have needed better co-ordination with local militias. “Even if Sirte is liberated, that does not mean that IS is gone from Libya,” says Jason Pack of Eye On ISIS in Libya, a monitoring service….
The GNA’s quick advance has, for now, weakened Mr Haftar’s claim to be the West’s best hope of defeating Libya’s jihadists. He looms over the eastern government and is often considered a spoiler of efforts to unify the country. Some say he is losing recruits to the GNA. But it too has been exposed. Its fighting force, drawn from the western town of Misrata, is much the same as the one that backed the old western government and battled Mr Haftar. “It is not a unity government, just a rebranding of Misratan militias,” says Mr Pack. Their loyalty can be fickle. Last year they fought another militia that is now attacking IS from the east.
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