Southern Libya remains a region of endemic instability wracked by communal conflict, a shortage of basic services, rampant smuggling, and fragmented or collapsed institutions. The region has long existed on the periphery of Libya’s politics and international concerns—but that must change. Increasingly, the vacuum of governance in the south has drawn in political actors from northern Libya and outside states. Extremists seeking refuge in the south and migrants being smuggled through the region directly impact the security of Libya, neighboring states like Tunisia, and Europe…
A New Recipe for Libyan Civil War
In a timely article for the Middle East Eye on 16 May, Mattia Toaldo discusses and analyses the implications of Khalifa Haftar’s recent meetings and much-hyped ‘breakthrough’ reconciliation efforts with Fayez al-Serraj, warning that efforts by the international community to accelerate the political process is likely to lead to more conflict not less.
Ultimately, Haftar’s plan is not to abandon war to enter politics, but rather to use politics to strengthen his hand in a military battle that he knows he can’t win under current circumstances. For him, war is not the continuation of politics by other means, but rather the other way around: politics is a way to expand his support base and continue fighting. Europeans and Americans should think twice before accelerating negotiations that could lead not to peace but to renewed fighting as an empowered and legitimised Haftar would clash against well-armed militias in western Libya.
To his numerous foreign visitors, Haftar has said over and over that he’s not ready to accept civilian oversight. His offer in Abu Dhabi is to be the head of the military and its civilian commander, all in one person and at the same time.Unless he changes his mind, Europeans and Americans should pursue a stabilisation strategy that, while keeping the door open for a political process, focuses instead on having a more functional government in Tripoli capable of delivering to Libyans what they’ve yearned for a long time: basic security, cash, functioning public services.
Europeans, in particular, should support Libyans who are working on an economic agreement to share oil wealth and eliminate one of the main drivers of the conflict along the lines described here. A stabilisation plan is surely less attractive than a “peace deal” for policy-makers set on a short-term perspective and keen to have “announcables” rather than actual deliverables. But it is time to call the Egyptian-Emirati bluff: a deal under these conditions would be the recipe for more civil war, not less.
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