NEWS | Sirte Offensive : A Critical Factor in Libya's Peace Equation
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NEWS | Sirte Offensive : A Critical Factor in Libya's Peace Equation

By Federica Fanuli
Editor-at-Large, IndraStra Global

Sirte, 2012 (photo credit: European Commission DG ECHO)

The political instability in the post-Gaddafi period and the porosity of the borders with Egypt, Libya is becoming the easy prey to the Islamic State. Just over a year ago, the jihadi militias had managed to penetrate Libyan territory and conquered Sirte, eventually became a DAESH stronghold, now it seems, they are gradually escaping from the city.   

The Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos Operation, the military campaign of Sirte conducted by loyal to the national Unity government forces against the jihadists of the Islamic State apparently begin to deliver the necessary results. Last few days are very much critical in Libya. In these days, in fact, regular troops entered in to the well-known port city in an attempt to tear the Black Caliphate vice; although, despite the arrival of successive news about the almost certain liberation of Sirte, the city is not yet entirely free.   

Libyan military forces have managed to get to the airport and port area, to reject the counter-offensive maneuvers of DAESH. The former has sufficient personnel and equipment to respond to threats pertaining to the city of Misrata and enough assets to propagate the propaganda messages, by directly appealing to the jihadi resistance to take stand against the DAESH.

Even the Libyan Prime Minister Al Serraj has appealed to all the Libyans, to join military troops putting DAESH away from Libya. At the moment, the favorite route is the one that leads inland of the country, in the south of Sirte, but part of the group is still hiding in the city, combed by government troops. Nothing excludes ISIS militants, who can also embark on the ships that take off from the Libyan coast to reach the European continent. 

The paralysis and the inability of the international community to address the issue of migration is, therefore, likely to be more problematic or rather to confirm fears, so far only averted. According to Libyan sources, some fighters are heading towards Zuara and Sabratha, the main places from where the boats sail, transiting the Mediterranean. After a careful makeover, with a new total look, the men of the Caliphate could take the features of refugees who actually fleeing war and poverty, although this certainly does not constitute any new threat on the top of existing one, to the European Union and, above all, to Italians, who have already called to manage migration flows for a long time.  

Serious attention need to be paid on what is happening in Sirte at this moment, because the reconquering of Gaddafi's home town and the defeat of the Islamic State could be the first step for the leader of the National Unity Government, Al Serraj, towards the creation of harmony of the two antagonistic governments, Tobruk, and Tripoli, but the expulsion of the Islamic State from Libya is not enough to restore peace in this country. 

The process of the democratic transition in Libya is long and tedious, considering the presence of different characters at the head of factions that occupy the Libyan political scene and the way they influences the local dynamics. The Libyan National Army commander in Cyrenaica, Haftar - who has the unconditional support from Egypt, could be chosen as mediator in national reconciliation talks - and the young commander Jathran, loyal to the Serraj government, who has put his hands on oil fields - the main source for sanitizing the ongoing mess and boost the economic recovery of Libya - after a series of clashes with the forces of Misrata and against which, one can not rule out an another grand return to current battle against DAESH in Sirte. 

Since many years, Libya`s unity government has been struggling to unify violence-ridden Libya and exert its control over the North African country. The operation against IS in Sirte does enjoys wide support in western Libya, where many welcomed the Government of National Accord (GNA)`s installation in the capital Tripoli on March 30 2016, but whether this "Sirte Offensive" will play a role of a critical factor in Libya's peace equation, only time can tell.

About the Author:

Federica Fanuli (TR RID : M-9093-2015) was graduated with honours in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Salento and she has obtained a Master's Degree in Political Science, European Studies and International Relations from the same university. As a Foreign Affairs analysts, she is an editorial board member of the Institute of Global Studies, a columnist at The Sunday Sentinel, an editorial board member of and Editor-at-Large at IndraStra Global. She can be reached at her Linkedin Profile.