The Islamic State’s Revitalization in Libya and its Post-2016 War of Attrition
On 21 March, The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) released its March issue of Sentinel (Volume 12, issue 3), to which Libya-Analysis Jason Pack and Lachlan Wilson contributed with an article entitled ‘The Islamic State’s Revitalization in Libya and its Post-2016 War of Attrition’. Jason Pack is President of Libya Analysis LLC and Dr. Lachlan Wilson is Managing Director of Eye on ISIS in Libya and the Program Manager at Libya-Analysis LLC. Pack and Wislon’s report decrypts the strategies adopted by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya since its territorial loss of Sirte in 2016. They argue that ISIS has engaged in a war of attrition seeking to derail Libyan state formation. Their report is articulated in four parts. First, they present an overview of the emergence of ISIS in Libya in 2014 and its evolution throughout the Libyan crisis. In a second part, they demonstrate how the Islamic State has appeared to have shifted strategy. Pack and Wilson identify that ISIS’s new approach relies on simultaneous military campaigns. On the one hand, the organization has been conducting high profile attacks on symbolic state institutions, and in parallel it has also engaged in a campaign in the desert throughout larger areas of the country. Then, the report focuses on the resources developed by the Islamic State to pursue its goals in terms of money, manpower and structures. Moving on, Pack and Wilson question the future of the Islamic State in Libya, alerting that the Islamic State in Libya may actually pose a greater threat to the state-building processes in 2019 than it did in 2016 given the present circumstances. They note:
The international community would be remiss to continue pushing political reconciliation while not providing sufficient attention to the intertwined ‘elephants in the room’ of Libya’s illicit economy and the threat from a resurgent Islamic State satellite. […] Looking further ahead over the next year—and assuming that sufficiently bold and coordinated actions from Libyan authorities and their international partners fail to materialize—the status quo in Libya will most probably be maintained; […] In this and other similar scenarios, the Islamic State in Libya is poised to exploit latent social fissures to help facilitate a descent into a large-scale conflict. In doing so, the group will be fulfilling its proximal ambition: maintaining the vicious circle of instability in Libya, which provides it with an ideal breeding ground.
The underlying information for this article is derived from the data produced and catalogued by Eye on ISIS in Libya (EOIL), a data repository of Islamic State actions, attacks, and social media statements run by the authors and available publicly at www.EyeOnISIS.com
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