On 16 November, ISIS published images which it claims are of an ISIS checkpoint in an open road area south west of Sirte. This indicates that ISIS may have shifted its strategy, dispersing southwards from the siege in Sirte to find refuge in the desert and regroup in order to launch counterattacks. There have long been fears that many ISIS fighters have slipped out of Sirte, meaning that reclaiming Sirte could be a hollow victory. This tactic follows similar ISIS strategies in Syria and Iraq.
In an interview with American news outlet Stars and Stripes last week, AFRICOM’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser discussed AFRICOM’s ongoing efforts to monitor the movements of ISIS fighters outside Sirte. He said “We need to leverage that success (in Sirte) by watching where these individuals go, keeping track of where they are, because what we don’t want them to do is re-emerge, come back, attack Tripoli, attack the forces who are in Sirte from behind.” He added, “We have to continue to develop those targets and have certainty of who we are seeing and what the activities are. We just need to have that level of certainty if we decide to strike outside the limits of Sirte.”
On 14 November, UN envoy Martin Kobler met with anti-GNA House of Representatives (HoR) members and boycotting PC member Ali al-Gutrani in Egypt. Gutrani said that the UN envoy discussed the possibility of falling back to an earlier draft of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). Following LNA gains in Benghazi last week, the UN and US envoys and the British ambassador to Libya all acknowledged the ‘Libyan National Army’s sacrifices against terrorism in Libya’ in their tweets. This is the first time they have publicly recognized the contribution of Haftar’s LNA forces to the fight against jihadism in Libya.