Political Instability in Libya

Political Instability in Libya

Continuing political instability and growing militancy in Libya


Libya’s government is struggling to maintain order and rebuild state institutions amid rising violence since the ouster and subsequent death of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in October 2011. The presence of rebel militias has increased—approximately 1,700 armed groups—especially since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and at least two hundred people have been killed in violent clashes and attacks in 2014 alone.

Following the June 2014 parliamentary elections, the House of Representatives (HoR) was elected to replace the General National Congress (GNC), which came to power in August 2012 after the first elections in a post-Qaddafi Libya. However, the HoR has struggled to consolidate legitimacy as the main authoritative power in Libya. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thanay has tried to regain control of the government, but continues to face opposition from multiple fronts.

A former Qaddafi loyalist, retired General Khalifa Haftar began “Operation Dignity” in February 2014 with an initial focus on attacking Islamist militant groups in Benghazi. The movement gained momentum in May 2014 when Haftar called for the dissolution of the GNC. Counter to this revolutionary movement, an alliance of Islamists and militias formed “Operation Dawn” and seized the airport in Tripoli in August 2014. In late August 2014, the United Arab Emirates launched airstrikes from Egypt against Qatari-backed Islamist militias in Libya, but the strikes failed to prevent the militias from capturing the airport.

Previously, in July 2014, Thanay reached a deal with rebels to reopen two major oil ports in the country, resolving the country’s oil crisis. Libya’s government, however, remains fractured with rival militias vying for power in the western and eastern parts of the country. The United States, France, and the UK have also closed their embassies, and the UN withdrew its staff from Tripoli. In order to help rebuild and refocus Libya’s security infrastructure, the United States will train 5,000 to 8,000 security forces, as it is increasingly concerned about the prevalence of terrorist groups and potential weapons transfers across the country’s unmonitored borders.

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