April 17, 2016
Libya Dangerously Divided
Unlike Tunisia, its neighbor to the west, Libya has been unable to form a cohesive government after ridding itself of Gaddafi.
The Arab Spring caused chaos in numerous nations, many having their ruling governments overthrown. Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt lost their longtime leaders and all three, as well as others, have had to contend with various terrorist groups while transitioning to new governments.
Currently, there are two competing governments that claim to be the legal representative of the Libyan people.
The internationally recognized, Western-backed Libyan Parliament, also known as the Council of Deputies, is based in the eastern port city of Tobruk. The Libyan Parliament, led by President Aguila Saleh Issa, governs the entire eastern portion of the country, as well as the southern desert region and an enclave near the northwest border with Tunisia.
The Islamist General National Congress is based in the country’s official capital city, Tripoli. The General National Congress is dominated by the radical Sunni organization Muslim Brotherhood, the same organization that assumed power after the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.
It’s worth repeating that the Muslim Brotherhood is a designated terrorist organization by Western and Arab governments. The General National Congress, led by its President Nouri Abusahmain, governs the majority of the northwest corner of the country.
The division has led to the establishment and expansion of the Islamic State in Libya, an offshoot of ISIS.
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Regardless, the Islamic State has boldly taken advantage of the disorder in Libya, recruiting foreign fighters from Chad, Mali, and Sudan, plotting and carrying out acts of terrorism, including an attack in Tunisia on March 7 that led to the deaths of 52 people.
The international community also fears that Libya’s vast oil reserves will fall into the hands of ISIS, as is the case in Iraq and other countries.
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Currently, several nations are taking part in operations in Libya to stem the expansion of the Islamic State. As of today, The United States, British, French, and Italians have special forces units in the country. The U.S. is carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets and utilizing armed drones from bases in Sicily. As Matteo Renzi had alluded to, an international coalition of 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers has been discussed amongst the U.S., France, the U.K., Italy, Germany, and several Arab countries.
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On December 23, 2015, the United Nations Security Council voted to endorse an agreement between the two rival Libyan governments to form a united governing body.
Currently, the Unity Presidential Council is based in relatively safe Tunisia, but hopes to eventually place itself in Tripoli.
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The consequences of Libya being unable to unite and successfully combat the Islamic State would be far-reaching.
If the Islamic State is able to continue its growth in Libya, it would have a springboard to attack Europe with greater ease than conducting operations from Syria and Iraq. Currently, Libya is, for all intents and purposes, a failed state. That environment is extremely conducive for ISIS to strengthen and spread. One needs only to look at Syria and Iraq. In all three nations, the lack of a strong central government allows terrorism to operate more freely.
From Europe, ISIS operatives will be able to take advantage of the immigration system and enter the United States, as the Boston and San Bernardino bombers have.
April 9, 2016
Libya: A Nation Dangerously Divided
By Derek DeLuca