“Over the last four years, Libya has become a key node in the expansion of Islamic radicalism across North Africa, West Africa, and the Sahel, and into Europe. Arms and fighters have crossed Libya’s porous borders, feeding radical organizations from the Islamic Maghreb to Boko Haram (...) If events in Libya continue they will haunt the United States and its Western allies for a decade or more.”
In 2011 when Gaddafi was killed by the militias, everybody believed that it was a new beginning for the country. But Libya became fractured, violent, tribal and divided, sliding slowly but surely into an abyss. Hope emerged anew with the United Nations brokered agreement in the Moroccan city of Skhirate. That was not the end of turmoil: a lot of splinter groups were not part of this accord and have the means to stand on the way of peace. There is ISIS, present through proxy groups all over the country. On January 7, 2016 a truck bomb, outside of a police training center in Zliten, left 65 people dead. The message: peace is not for tomorrow. Since the Ottoman Empire, Libya was ruled by a central government that delegated minimal power to the regions to insure stability. Tribes existed, but had only a honorific role and a cultural existence, no more. They were used as auxiliaries to strengthen the state and, in return, given rentier privileges. When Colonel Gaddafi toppled King Idris Senusi in 1979, he made the state all-prominent, subduking the population through cash handouts and rentier privileges. The population did not have to work. Gaddafi guaranteed himself total control. In the Arab Spring of 2011 and the uprising in Cyrenaica, NATO sided with the revolutionaries of Benghazi, but never fielded foot soldiers to mop up the floor. Ethan Chorin (Foreign Policy) says that: “The situation in Libya is the product of a series of mistakes: not imposing a robust reconstruction and stabilizing plan to prevent radicalism”. Religious and tribal groups moved in on the huge arsenal left behind, with the temptation to rule and have a share of the oil cake. In October 2011, there were 300 armed groups. In 2014, General Haftar, armed with US benediction from Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia led an army from the East against Islamist groups strong in the West. His secular-oriented movement faltered. The Islamists, supported by Turkey and Qatar, put together their own front: Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn), allied to heavily armed brigades, each controlling one tribe or region. The warlords of Libya would see a Libyan national reconciliation as a threat to their unlimited power and lucrative business. ISIS needed Libya for its operations in North Africa: to organize its terrorist networks. “A rough balance of power among local brigades preserved a kind of equilibrium, if not stability. (...) But that semblance of unity is now in tatters, and with it the hope to settle the competition for power”. The internationally-recognized government of al-Serraj, in Tripoli, is in feud with that of General Haftar in Tobruk. And the star of Seif al-Qaddafi is rising: many Libyans who regret his father would want him to take over the reins and unite Libyans anew.
Mattia Toaldo (European Council on Foreign Relations): “Russia’s increasing political backing and the anti-Islamist winds blowing in Washington have strengthened Haftar’s belief there is no point negotiating a political solution with the forces in Western Libya.”