Tensions rise in Sirte as LNA mobilises near the city
On 11 May, the spokesperson for the Sirte Protection Force (SPF), Taha Hadid, asserted that the SPF was ready to repel any Libyan National Army Forces (LNA) attack on the city. This follows local sources reporting the deployment of LNA units in the outskirts of the city in the early evening, waiting for orders to advance on the city. Sources on the ground report that residents in Sirte are on high alert and many are preparing to leave the city in anticipation of looming conflict. The SPF has also reported Islamic State (ISIS) forces moving in the area south of Sirte in recent days, though details are limited.
The LNA has failed to make the inroads it expected into the capital, and needs to secure its supply lines in order to maintain its positions. Controlling Sirte and/ or the area around the city would allow it to better protect these routes. Any major assault or provocation on Sirte would likely see a swift response from Misratan forces based there or from Misrata itself. If mobilized, Misratan forces would likely be able to deflect the LNA forces given the limited number of LNA troops available to support such an attack. However, a significant Misratan mobilization to Sirte may result in Misratan forces being pulled away from Tripoli, leaving the capital’s defenses vulnerable. On the other hand, Misratans fighting in Tripoli may be reluctant to leave the city for fear they would lose their advantage to other western militias. Either way, a significant LNA move on Sirte could expose existing divisions within Misrata and the anti-LNA forces more generally, even if the LNA cannot take the city.