2011 Libyan Civil War
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The Libyan No-Fly Zone was begun with airstrikes and ship-borne missile strikes at Libyan air-defense installations as well as Libyan ground forces. From March 19 to March 31, the foreign military operation was under American command. President Obama cited this hand-over in his televised speech to the American public on March 29 as a significant downsizing of American involvement in the Libya War.
As many analysts and commentators rightly pointed out, this claim was somewhat obsequious, as any NATO operation has significant American military, diplomatic, and political involvement, as the U. In addition to air and naval firepower in open aid to the rebels, it was disclosed on March 31, that the American Central Intelligence Agency was on the ground aiding the rebels. Throughout April, , NATO airstrikes continued to pound Libyan military positions and units, while the ground war between Gadhafi's forces and the rebels took on a see-saw effect, as several towns and positions changed hands between them.
Many outside analysts saw the war grinding into a stalemate, with Gadhafi's forces controlling most of western Libya, while the rebels held most of eastern Libya. In the last week of April, the United States announced the introduction of its unmanned Predator drones to the war. In the rebel capital of Benghazi, celebratory gunfire erupted upon word that the younger Gadhafi's death. The Libyan spokesman who announced Said Gadhafi's death also claimed that the NATO strike was a failed attempt to kill the Libyan leader himself, implying that Muamar Gadhafi himself was in the house at the time of the attack.
By mid-August, , the rebel advance had placed Tripoli in a siege. NATO airstrikes continued to aid the rebels, and speculation continued as to whether Gadhafi would flee Libya or make a bloody last stand in Tripoli. Amid that speculation, though, the Gadhafi regime fell in a spectacular military collapse August 21, , as rebels advanced almost unopposed into Tripoli. The night before, rebel cells within the capital city rose up against Gadhafi's forces, seizing control of several neighborhoods.
As of the evening of August 21, some reports indicate that Saif al-Islam, Gadhafi's son and one-time heir, had been captured.
Libya’s global civil war | European Council on Foreign Relations
After the liberation of Tripoli, the rebels besieged the two remaining Gadhafi strongholds of Bani Walid, and Sirte, which was the hometown of the fallen dictator. In October, , forces of the new Libyan government overcame Gadhafi loyalist opposition, and captured the two towns. On October 20, after a U. Predator drone destroyed the first vehicle in a convoy fleeing Sirted, a French airstrike devastated a the convoy, forcing the survivors of the attack to flee on foot.
Muamar Gadhafi and some of his bodyguards survived and attempted to hide in a concrete drainage ditch. They were found, and Gadhafi was reportedly captured alive, though he was soon shot dead. Such escalation would lead to further state breakdown and provide sanctuary to terrorist groups and people smugglers. Therefore, it is critical that Europeans understand the international dynamics of the intensifying violence in Libya.
Left unchecked, foreign interventions in the country will continue to drive the conflict — not least by blocking any EU and UN diplomacy designed to resolve the crisis through a power-sharing agreement. The result could very well be an intractable regional crisis of Syrian proportions. Various Gulf Arab states — particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — have sponsored Libyan political movements and armed groups, aiming to establish regional hegemony amid the ashes of the Arab uprisings. The conflict shifted the centre of Libyan politics onto a historical east-west divide, with leaders in western Libya affiliated with a rump parliament and linked to Qatar and Turkey, and those in the east increasingly under the sway of Haftar, who has ties to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
The conflict also created space for the Islamic State group ISIS to seize territory and for people smugglers to thrive.
Moreover, the war led to the formation of military groups that have plagued attempts to stabilise Libya ever since. Its geographic position and economic potential have made it a coveted prize in this contest, while the threats to Europe that emerged from the civil war have prompted interventions from Western powers that only complicate the situation. But the political institutions created under the deal failed to forge a consensus.
International support for these bodies became ever more superficial and Western states adapted accordingly, with key European actors focusing more on their narrow interests than the search for a comprehensive solution to the crisis.
For instance, Italy directly intervened in Libya to mitigate the migration crisis that began in , supporting militias loosely affiliated with the Government of National Accord GNA in Tripoli. Similarly, France adopted a Libya policy that focused on counter-terrorism and, as a result, became increasingly dependent on Haftar. Thus, rather than working through a unified Libyan chain of authority, international actors increasingly sided with one of the rival groups. This paper examines recent developments in the conflict and analyses the positions and interests of the many non-European foreign states that have intervened in Libya.
But Europeans can still make a positive contribution. He has long relied on the support, if not followed the lead, of the UAE and Egypt. Haftar launched his assault on Tripoli shortly after returning from a trip to Riyadh, where he likely secured approval to advance with support from countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The core of this support comprises states that share a broad political vision of rolling back the politics of the Arab uprisings, particularly democratic and pro-Islamist forces, and backing autocrats who can fit into a new regional order.
2011 Libyan civil war
In Egypt identified its roughly 1,km-long desert border with Libya as a vulnerability that directly contributed to the growing number of terrorist attacks on its territory and the insurgency on the Sinai Peninsula. Haftar has been a natural ally for Cairo due to the location of his forces near the Egyptian border. Having begun as a military campaign to displace Islamists and more extreme jihadist movements from their ascendant position in Benghazi, the operation grew to represent a wider, more political, mission.
This proposal was likely designed to create a power-sharing deal between Sarraj and Saleh that could have unified the state and contained Haftar within a civilian legal system — at least until Libya held an election or underwent another political transition. It seems inevitable that, unless it discovers a cheaper way to protect its interests, Cairo will continue escalating the conflict through arms shipments and airstrikes that give its client a military advantage.
The UAE views Libya as a central battleground in this struggle. This attractive mixture of political and economic interests has made Libya a key piece of the regional order Abu Dhabi seeks to create. Since , the UAE has been key to strengthening his military capabilities, as well as his political support base in Libya and abroad and his international standing. This independent source of military support has also helped Haftar resist pressure to politically engage with the UN and western Libyan factions.
Moreover, the UAE has seemingly played a key role in waging the fierce narrative and media war that has racked Libya since , driving conflict and deepening the rift between east and west. Abu Dhabi is widely viewed as being key to the creation of several television stations and news websites behind the pro-Haftar propaganda machine that dominates the Libyan media landscape. Since Haftar began his advance on Tripoli, there have been regular flights of transport aircraft between the UAE and eastern Libya — likely carrying shipments of arms and supplies — and a series of UAE-linked drone strikes on Tripoli.
Rather than engaging in overt political intervention, Saudi policy operated through a Salafist group that follows the teachings of Medina-based Islamic scholar Rabea al-Madkhali — a group that is on the fringes of the Sahwa movement but close to the state. Perhaps recognising that one arm of its traditional influence-generating mechanism, financial sponsorship, would be ineffective in oil-rich Libya, Riyadh seems to have focused on the other arm, religious authority.
Thus, it seemingly aimed to build influence and transform the socio-cultural identity of the Libyan state into one more amenable to an alliance. With a semblance of nationwide cohesion, the group operates semi-autonomously: it responds to the Libyan political environment and sermons from Saudi Arabia, but also acts in line with its own religious reasoning and opportunistic interests. The messages that Saudi-based scholars have directed at the Madkhalists appear to have shifted over the years in accordance with Saudi policy, suggesting a political link. The group can take this approach partially because it maintains independent revenue streams.
Although there are rumours that it receives cash from Riyadh via the airports it controls, the group also runs a surprisingly lucrative business selling religious paraphernalia sourced in Saudi Arabia. More recently, he has reminded his followers that Ramadan is a month of jihad. His meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is widely perceived as having prompted the final decision to launch the offensive, allegedly following Saudi pledges of financial support for the operation.
Yet it is possible that political tribulations in Algeria, Sudan, and Turkey led Saudi and Emirati leaders to believe they had a rare opportunity to act while their rivals were distracted. Like the UAE, Saudi Arabia has also mobilised its propaganda machine to win the narrative war around Haftar and his offensive. Through a network of blogs that published an average of 1, posts per day in the first 15 days of the offensive, Riyadh has sought to dominate the Libyan media landscape.
An army of bots that tried to shape Arabic social media coverage of the war, and gradually infiltrated English- and French-language social media, have been traced back to Saudi Arabia.
Haftar also has varying support from Russia and the US. These actors may currently be on his side, but they are more likely than his regional allies to adjust their loyalties as the war goes on. Although their origins are not entirely clear, Russian activities in Libya appear to be the product of various state institutions, particularly the Ministry of Defence.
Russia likely courted Haftar to strengthen its relationship with Egypt. The corresponding ties Moscow maintains with the GNA and Misrata — a commercial centre in which Russia previously held investments, and the home of the largest anti-Haftar military force in Libya — reflect its awareness that either Haftar is unlikely to be successful or that an exclusive relationship would be unprofitable. And Haftar has taken a similar approach, often floating the idea that he will establish a closer relationship with Russia to gain concessions from Western actors.
Since , there have been widespread reports that Russia has provided military assistance to Haftar in the form of advisers, training, and the maintenance of Russian weaponry through private military contractor the Wagner Group. By naming Haftar as responsible for opening hostilities, the statement could have opened the door for further action by the Security Council.
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Therefore, the decision to block it suggests that Russia is now coming down harder on his side. The New Arab , 2 August. Eriksson, M. A fratricidal Libya: Making sense of a conflict complex. CrossRef Google Scholar.
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