In Sirte, the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Misratan-led Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus (BM) forces continued to make more gains against Islamic State (ISIS). On 30 August they fully took control of the ‘first’ residential area, and on 2 September they moved against the last remaining ‘third’ residential area. On 31 August PM Fayez Al Serraj and some members of the GNA Presidential Council travelled to Sirte, entering the liberated Ouagadougou complex, which only two weeks ago had served as the ISIS in Libya HQ. The Misratan forces have come across some fascinating documents left behind by ISIS fighters, reportedly revealing direct links and cooperation between ISIS in Sirte and jihadists from the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC), who are fighting the Libyan National Army (LNA) in eastern Libya.
Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus is also thought to be considering the appointment of a military governor for Sirte, under the command of the Presidential Council (PC). The LNA’s Martial law arrangements in eastern Libya seem to be gaining in popularity due to the system’s apparent success in establishing relative security and facilitating local governance. The PC may chose to implement a similar model by which to control Sirte post-ISIS.
On 31 August President Obama extended US operations in Sirte for an additional 30 days in order to ensure that the al-Bunyan al-Marsus forces are able to take full control of Sirte. Despite the growing tensions and fracturing within Libya’s key political institutions, the international community continues to support the mechanisms of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). Western countries likely hope that the Presidential Council will be able to use the defeat of ISIS in Sirte to strengthen its legitimacy and control within Libya.
On 30 August, the EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia was fully authorised by the EU to begin training of the Libyan coastguard and Navy, and to participate in efforts to counter illegal arms trafficking. A three-phase training period for 80 Libyans is set to kick off late September or early October aboard an Italian armoured cruiser in international waters for 14 weeks. According to media reports, other EU states may also offer vessels to Libya.