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Are Anti-ISIS Forces in Libya any Match for ISIS’ Guerrilla-Style Warfare?

Sirte’s port remains under the control of Bunyan Marsus, but clashes with ISIS continue to take place around the port’s western perimeter. Libyan naval vessels continue to blockade the port, while local sources also report the presence of foreign naval frigates. Fighting this week focused on the ISIS stronghold in the Ouagadougou Centre, Ibn Sina Hospital and Sirte University areas, with airstrikes and helicopter gunships featuring heavily in the battles. In short, very little progress is being made to dislodge ISIS from these areas. ISIS fighters still appear to have a presence in areas previously taken by Bunyan Marsus in Sirte’s south and west, and ISIS also appears to be attempting to flank Bunyan Marsus, indicating a more prolonged guerrilla war in the city.

US Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on 18 July he is encouraged by developments against ISIS in Libya.  Dunford said terrorists suffered “significant casualties” in and around Benghazi, with assessments indicating their numbers have been reduced to just a few hundred inside Sirte.  “I don’t think that there’s any doubt that the Islamic State in Libya is weaker than it was some months ago; there’s no question about it,” he said.  Dunford said the actions the US conducts in Libya, “less those specifically against the threat against the homeland or our interests,” are done in conjunction with the Government of National Accord (GNA).  “I think probably the most important thing that can happen inside of Libya over the next week or two are the negotiations ongoing to [align the opposing] security forces… underneath the GNA,” he added.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that ISIS fighters could set up new cells across Libya and North Africa as they are driven from Sirte.  “The recent pressure against ISIL in Libya could lead its members… to relocate and regroup in smaller and geographically dispersed cells throughout Libya and in neighboring countries,” Ban said in a confidential report to the UN Security Council, obtained by AFP.  “The future impact of scattered ISIL combatants on southern local armed groups may become an issue of concern,” he said.

Libya-Analysis is the most read independent English-language blog on Libyan affairs. It is run by Jason Pack, founder of EyeOnISISinLibya.com and researcher of World History at Cambridge University