A Mirage Of Reconciliation In Libya?
Rhiannon Smith and Lachlan Wilson have written and Op-Ed for The Arab Weekly suggesting rapprochement between Libya’s two key opposing power factions, Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), appears a distant prospect despite the appearance of positive progress through the UN-led political agreement earlier this year. Smith and Wilson suggest:
Both factions and their patchwork of ever-shifting allies have attempted to extend their spheres of influence into the domain of the other to strengthen their claims to legitimacy. Both have failed. Haftar’s military prowess now wanes and Sarraj is scrambling to consolidate his position.
Haftar sought to expand his limited military presence in western Libya. In early October, forces allied with the LNA took control of Sabratha from the people smugglers who had ruled the roost there and Haftar declared that the capital was next. In response, the GNA sided with the LNA-aligned groups in Sabratha, declaring it a victory against criminals. However, Haftar’s allies appear to have overstretched themselves in the pursuit of taking west Libya and the GNA struck back. In early November, an alliance of forces linked to the GNA defeated LNA-aligned forces in Wershefana, south of the capital. Significantly, Haftar’s longtime allies from Zintan joined the GNA in this fight, considerably weakening the LNA’s military momentum in western Libya and undermining Haftar’s strongman image.
Smith and Wilson also explore the GNA’s failed attempt to extend its political power into eastern Libya through the appointment of Faraj Gaem as the GNA’s interior minister in Benghazi. Gaem’s attempt to challenge Haftar’s control over the city backfired and resulted in his arrest and a ban on GNA officials traveling to the east. The authors then argue:
Haftar’s military prowess does not give him de facto veto in the political environment if he can’t even use it to consolidate territorial control, while Sarraj’s ability to use politics to challenge authority appears impotent. The hope is that the UN political process will provide a route out of this stalemate.
… As it stands, the larger political and military alliances are becoming increasingly irrelevant for normal Libyans who have been abandoned to fend for their own personal security and economic survival. Not only is reconciliation fracturing at the top, it is undermining things at the bottom too.
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