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Libyan National Army and Other Forces Mobilize Against ISIS Resurgence

ISIS IN ACTION
The re-emergence of Islamic State (ISIS) cells in central and southern Libya last month has led both the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) al-Bunyan al- Marsus to deploy large forces to the region. The LNA, which currently controls most Oil Crescent territory, mobilised units from its two strongest divisions – the Special Forces (Saiqa) and the Armoured Zawiyya Martyrs Brigade, led by general Jamal Zahawi, to locations in Ajdabiya, Ras Lanuf and near Nawfaliyah as well as in the desert areas south and south-east of Sirte.

On 10 September, the commander of the LNA’s Sirte Operation Room declared that the entire coastal strip from Sidra to about 50km east of Sirte, which includes the towns of Nawfaliyah and Harawa, is all under the control of the LNA. On 8 September, the LNA reportedly defused a bomb attached to the main gas pipeline south of Ajdabiya, although it is not clear who planted the bomb or how it was discovered. BM forces are positioned at the 30km checkpoint east of Sirte, and it is reported that BM arrested two people in a raid last week, fueling tensions with the local population.

WESTERN RESPONSE
On 5 September, Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minitti visited Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi just a day after the French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian completed his tour of Libya. This was Minitti’s first meeting with Haftar and he is the most senior Italian official to meet with him to date. Italy has not previously had a strong relationship with Haftar, allying more closely with the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its allies in Tripoli and Misrata. No details were released about what was discussed during this meeting.

Last week, the French delegation including French ambassador to Libya Brigitte Curmi, met with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and High Council of State (HCS) head Abdurrahman al-Swehli in Tripoli. In Misrata, they met with the city’s mayor, Mohamed Eshtewi, as well as House of Representatives (HoR) members and al-Bunyan al-Marsus commanders, the content of these meetings not clear. Le Drian met with Haftar in Benghazi and HoR president Ageelah Saleh in Tobruq. The aim of the visit was to garner support for the Serraj- Haftar agreement reached in Paris earlier this summer.

The new UNSMIL chief Ghassan Salamé is said to be frustrated by the succession of independent bilateral attempts to broker a solution to Libya’s crises, particularly ahead of the UN General Assembly’s meeting on Libya on 20 September. On September 7, Salamé told Italian media that, “There are six or seven different operations in front of Libyans’ eyes. Too many cooks spoil the broth.” It is reported that he intends to repeat this sentiment at the conference this week and that he himself intends to unveil fresh proposals in New York in the coming days.

On 14 September, UN Envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, will reportedly address a conference in London convened by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and attended by the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. The conference follows a run of peace initiatives between varying subsets of Libyan factions in recent months facilitated by international actors. The London initiative will focus on a plan to restart political talks including making changes to the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in December 2015 that has so far failed to unite Libya’s myriad factions.

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

This article was republished with explicit permission from the author.