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Tensions between Misrata and Haftar

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LIBYAPROSPECT – London

Tensions between rival Libyan armed forces have been escalating over the last few weeks, which increases the chance of Libya falling back into deeper chaos, since the fall of Daesh in the city of Sirte.

Since the Libyan people ousted the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been tackling deep tribal conflict between militants all in pursuit of absolute power in Libya. The commander of the army of the House of Representatives (HoR), General Khalifa Haftar, has been one of the leading causes of the conflict in the Eastern side of Libya, and he has always rejected the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is backed by the UN.

AFP news agency reported that Mohamed Al-Jareh of the Atlantic Council said that “the situation is most likely going to escalate further, given that the voice war is now the loudest.” The silver lining in this conflict is the PC; they are currently the only hope for the West to bring stability to Libya and tackle the issue of Jihadism in Libya.

There is currently a deep split between the PC in the west and the army of Haftar in the east. It was the pro-PC troops who exterminated Daesh from Sirte in December, bringing a long bloody war against Daesh to an end.

The PC loyalist military ranks are determined to fight Haftar’s army. Haftar’s army has been combating in the eastern city of Benghazi for over two years, and it blames Misrata forces who are supporters of the PC for being against Haftar, who is considered as the one who destroyed Benghazi under the name of fighting terrorism.

Moreover, there has been growing fears of Daesh re-grouping after they were defeated in Sirte. Haftar’s army assaulted a town near Libya’s “oil Crescent area,” which was labeled by Haftar as a den of terrorists.

Also, Hafter forces airstrike hit an aircraft that was carrying a delegation from Misrata, who were flying to Al-Jufra, one died, and several were wounded.

This led to a reaction by the Misrata forces to send in reinforcements to Al-Jufra as well as the region of Sabha, Southern Libya.

The US State Department spokesman, John Kirby, warned that escalating the conflict in Libya could lead to the revival of Daesh as it allows them an opportunity to reorganize. He said that “the truth is that to date, the Libyan forces have made progress against Daesh in Sirte and eastern Libya, and that’s what makes this renewed fighting here of concern.”

Al-Jareh also said that the confrontation between Misrata forces and Haftar’s forces could also take place in Tripoli as well as the Oil Crescent and the southern region. He stated that such an outcome “will have a knock-on effect on Libya’s oil and water facilities adding to the suffering of the entire population especially in the western Libya and the capital city, Tripoli.”

Al-Jareh added that the attack on the plane carrying the Misrata nobles angered even the most moderate groups in the city of Misrata, he said that “the hardliners have now managed to switch public opinion within Misrata in their favor successfully.” This has allowed them to mobilize public opinion in their favor and against the Haftar’s army.

Haftar is trying to mobilize support from the South side of Libya. A senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations said that “the South is the most immediate flashpoint where Haftar is trying to replicate the strategy of tribal alliances and limited show of force that allowed him to capture the oil Crescent in September.” He added that “Sirte is another flashpoint with Misrata fears that Haftar will use tribal allegiances to strip Misrata of its gains on the ground.”

The future of Libya is currently covered; only time will tell whether the security in Libya will improve and if the country will be able to progress.