As nominally ‘GNA-aligned’ militias made highly impressive gains against IS in Sirte last week, and a degree of euphoria has gripped international actors and some GNA supporters, these gains have not automatically led to authentic political unity among Libya’s major anti-IS factions . To the contrary, prospects for unity and strengthened political legitimacy for the GNA are lower, and the likelihood of renewed civil conflict higher, due to three factors identified this week. These include the (1) growing disconnect between GNA and various anti-IS factions, (2) the GNA’s ambivalence/complicity towards hard-line Islamist actors taking more centre stage, and (3) the rising popular discontent with the GNA. These three political dynamics continue to undermine the GNA’s credibility and sustainability. A new HoR session was called by President Ageelah Saleh for 13-14 June to vote on the GNA but this still remains unlikely due to the political rift in the HoR, which has widened since the GNA’s arrival to Tripoli.
The-disconnect between the GNA and ‘affiliated’ anti-IS fighters (whether under the Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus (BM) operation room or others) is growing for a number of factors. These include a perceived reneging on promises of support by western countries, as injured fighters were unable to be Medevac’d to Turkish and western airports due to travel restrictions recently re-applied against allowing Libyan carriers into EU airspace. This has caused major resentment in ranks of GNA forces currently fighting IS in Sirte, especially now that the main field hospital was attacked by an IS suicide bombing. Furthermore, attempts to issue a new UNSC arms trafficking resolution tightening the arms embargo, and the perceived international ‘back-peddling’ on arming GNA forces is reinforcing this dynamic, with more discord as a result within pro-GNA militias since arms stockpiles are exhausted and not-replenished. As regards the oil crescent ops room, the anti-IS fighters from the PFG, Ajdabiya border forces guard, and local volunteers are mainly local federalist forces who are only very tenuously linked to the GNA. Finally the main GNA-LNA disconnect over Haftar has continued to grow, with indications that the GNA designate Minister of Defence Mahdi Al Barghathi may quit the GNA. This may help ease tensions within LNA ranks in eastern Libya but will likely entrench de-facto territorial division between the GNA and authorities in Eastern Libya, and possibly fuel civil war.
In short, as great successes were achieved against ISIS (the symptom) nothing has been done to deal with the cause (the lack of unity or governance in Libya.)