ISIS’s Courses of Action – Out of Sirte
In her article for AEI’s Critical Threats site, Emily Estelle argues that the offensive against Sirte could successfully force IS to abandon the city and push the group south into the Fezzan. Estelle’s analysis may be premature, however, given that no Misratan militia commanders have yet backed the unity government plan and the composition of the task force itself remains to be determined. In fact, we believe that even if a full frontal assault materialized–a development which may not occur for months–IS may weather the attack. However, Ms Estelle is quite right in pointing out that the group could survive the conquest of Sirte and could easily establish itself in the Fezzan or in dispersed cells across the country.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham’s (ISIS) affiliate in Libya is facing a multi-pronged offensive in Sirte, its stronghold on the central Libyan coast. It may be preparing to withdraw from the city. Libyan and international actors will trumpet this loss as a major victory. Losing its North African hub will be a major setback for ISIS in Libya; however, it is also an opportunity for the group to open new fronts in North Africa. The coming offensive on Sirte has been apparent for some time, and ISIS’s seasoned military planners will have prepared for it. ISIS will pursue a course of action designed to mitigate the loss of Sirte and allow it to continue to operate in Libya, and maybe even extend its campaign to neighboring states.
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