Political Instability in Libya

Political Instability in Libya

Continued political fracture and growing militancy in Libya resulting in state failure, minimal governance, and further military interventions by Arab states

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, including fighters loyal to the self-declared Islamic State—especially since the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Libya's House of Representatives (HoR) has struggled to consolidate legitimacy as the main authoritative power in Libya, after replacing the General National Congress (GNC) in June 2014. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni 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 but gained momentum in May 2014 calling 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. Later that month, 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.

According to the United Nations, the fighting in Benghazi and Tripoli has forced nearly 250,000 to flee, including 100,000 who have been internally displaced. Hundreds were killed in violent clashes and attacks in 2014.

Libya’s government remains fractured with rival militias vying for power in the western and eastern parts of the country. 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. Other neighboring countries have vowed to offer security assistance over fear of Islamic State spillover, which established a foothold in the Libyan city of Derna, close to the border with Egypt.

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