Libya: Unity First, Military Victory Second
Jason Pack and Rhiannon Smith write an opinion piece for the Arab Weekly looking at how one-off military victories against Islamic State in Libya mean little without political unity of purpose, particularly with a new phase of internecine conflict likely on the horizon.
Paradoxically, far from symbolising the destruction of violent jihadism in Libya, the potential liberation of Sirte is likely to cause greater instability within the country because of the precarious realignment of power that will inevitably follow. Victory against ISIS in Sirte should confer greater political legitimacy on the GNA. However, it would also likely stoke tensions between the GNA and its rival government, the House of Representatives (HoR). It is also unclear if the very same Misratan forces who led the fighting in Sirte under Bunyan Marsus would continue to back their erstwhile political patrons.
In short, limiting or even destroying ISIS’s hold over Sirte does not mean destroying ISIS in Libya. The group’s successes in establishing foundations in disparate places throughout Libya is a direct symptom of the chaos, political division and lack of state control that has plagued the country since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Very little stands in the way of ISIS’s regrouping in Libya’s southern expanses.
To eradicate the roots of violent jihadism in Libya, a sustainable political solution is required. Without this, instability, civil conflict and statelessness will persist and individual military victories against ISIS will do little to eliminate the threat of jihadist groups constantly relocating, regrouping and continuing to wreak havoc in Libya and across North Africa.
Read the full article here.