US media has reported that AFRICOM is now analysing intelligence on ISIS fighters who escaped Sirte before or during the offensive and has begun laying the groundwork for expanded air attacks to follow and kill them as part of a final push by the Obama administration. US commanders are concerned that these ISIS fighters may regroup outside Sirte and elsewhere to launch pinpoint counter attacks against the BM forces.
The election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the US has been received fairly positively by both pro-GNA and pro-Haftar factions in Libya. The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that former CIA director James Woolsey said the new administration would be committed to eradicating ISIS, both in the Levant and in Libya. The pro-GNA factions hope Trump’s anti-jihadi stance will mean his administration continues to support the GNA as it is officially leading the fight against ISIS in Sirte. On the other hand, the perceived closeness of the new US administration to Egypt’s Sissi and Russia’s Putin, both seen by Haftar and his supporters as more reliable allies than other Western nations, has raised the hopes of the anti-GNA faction in Eastern Libya who believe that Haftar’s strong-man, anti-terrorist approach will give them the upper hand in new global political dynamics.
However, the ongoing dispute between different factions over article 8 of the LPA, which relates to Haftar’s role in the Army, and the composition of the Presidential Council and High Council of State prevented any agreement being reached. The LPA agreement was signed in Skhirat by the Dialogue Committee on 17 December 2015, therefore if no breakthrough is achieved by 17 December this year then anti-GNA factions hope to reset the process. This trajectory is also pushing some hard-line backers of the GNA to threaten to forego the HoR entirely if the LPA is not endorsed by then, and to establish a de-facto parliament in western Libya instead.
On 13 November, UN Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, met with HoR President Ageelah Saleh in the UAE, along with former National Transitional Council (NTC) PM Mahmoud Jibril and just-resigned ambassador to Libya for the UAE, Aref Nayed. According to Libyan media reports, Martin Kobler raised the issue of possibly ‘re-opening’ the LPA for amendments or returning to the ‘4th draft’ of the agreement which is more amenable to the anti-GNA faction. Saleh reportedly said that no new GNA government will be endorsed by the HoR without a change to the LPA process. Kobler himself tweeted briefly after the meeting that he had agreed with Saleh to continue moving forward within the framework of the internationally recognised LPA.