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Will Trump focus on Libya soon?

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LIBYAPORSPECT – London

An article published by Foreign Affairs, written by Jason Pack and Nate Mason, talking about the current situation in Libya, and the possible solutions to the conflict. While keeping the US President-elect, Donald Trump, as the primary focus throughout the article, by arguing that the President-elect should reinstate US’s status as a superpower by taking up a more active in Libya and the North African Region.

The article talked about how surprising it is that the US Trump is wildly popular in Libya. They also emphasized how since 2014, the war in Libya has not progressed towards a solution and has been in a “stalemate” as the warring factions are still yet to reach an agreement to find stability in Libya. The factions fighting for control are the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk that backing its army under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar, as well as competitive forces, all of which aim to gain control of the country.

Pack and Mason reflect on 2015; they say how things were looking “dire” in Libya because some cities had fallen entirely under jihadi control and most of the oil terminals in Libya were switched off and little or no oil was being exported. However, they go on to write how since mid-2016 Daesh had finally been evicted from its stronghold in the city of Sirte, which “was its largest patch of territory outside of Iraq and Syria.”

However, reconciliation remains far-fetched. The writers said that war is currently brewing on the south side of Libya and the PC is also on the verge of downfall. On the 2nd January, the member of the PC, Moussa Al-Kony, chose to resign “live” on a Libyan TV.

One day after Al-Kony’s resignation, Haftar’s forces bombed a civilian aircraft in Al-Jufra, which was carrying on senior board officials from Misrata. The city of Misrata is one of the influential cities in Libya who support the PC. Pack and Mason believe that this escalation is likely to prompt expensive counterattacks and can spiral out of control.

Pack and Mason go on to write how there is an increasing need for an alternative effort to set up a dialogue outside of the UN framework. They said that last few months Haftar’s forces had increasingly gained control of oil fields, pipelines, and terminals that are needed for Libya to be able to resolve the security situation and can rebuild the country. The country is split between the east and the west; the east is in support of the HoR and Haftar, while the west in support of the PC. They say that the PC believes that Trump will be able to breathe fresh life into the negotiations.

They write that in the streets of Libya Trump entered the presidential office “far more popular that Hilary Clinton would have been. They believe that Barack Obama neglected a few areas of the world during his second term and that even though US airstrikes were instrumental in ousting Daesh from Sirte, the US had failed “to exert leadership over the political and economic aspects of Libya’s transition.”

Pack and Mason then talked about how there is a real reason for the Trump administration to focus on Libya sooner rather than later, as “the conflict is evolving in ways that threaten US interests. They say that other countries in North Africa, such as Libya’s neighbors may be home to the Daesh fighters fleeing Libya, they may “entrench” themselves elsewhere. Also, Russia is becoming a more active force in North Africa, with its open support and recognition of Haftar and the HoR.

They also talked about how the US currently recognises the PC as the only legitimate government in Libya, but the PC “governs nothing in Libya” its jurisdiction ends outside of Tripoli, it is entirely dependent on armed forces loyal to the PC to maintain security, which therefore means “it cannot govern without favouring their interests.”

They concluded their article by saying that “proposals to prop up this pseudo-government with a foreign armed and trained presidential guard will only add another uncontrollable militia to the mix.”

However, they proposed that the Trump administration should not recognize any faction as the legitimate party in control, including the PC. Currently, in Libya, it is Haftar and his army as well as the city of Misrata are currently the two most powerful groups. They go on to highlight how Haftar’s strategy to gain full control of the west and the south is underway and is likely to happen, and that Misrata’s popularity is slowly waning in the East.

Pack and Mason believe that if this continues to happen then Haftar’s forces will be able to “overpower” the Misrata forces, therefore they believe that “a negotiated power-sharing solution among the militias, rather than the powerless politicians of the PC or any other pseudo government must be forged from the bottom up.”