The Failed State That Nobody Is Paying Attention To: The Current Military Situation in Libya

Libya: The World Watches And Does Nothing

Source: strategypage.com – January 9, 2014

libya_option_1General Hiftar and the general commanding the Libyan Air Force have reaffirmed their loyalty to the Tobruk government, which is seeking more active assistance from Egypt and other Arab countries. Hiftar has most of the post-Kaddafi armed forces under his control and backs Tobruk pleas for foreign assistance in obtaining more weapons and other military supplies. Hiftar is a career military man and speaks with experience in these matters. So far the West and Arab countries refuse to provide this aid but some Arab countries are believed to be providing some weapons and military supplies covertly and in small quantities. The Tobruk government points out that the lack of foreign assistance puts them at a disadvantage since Islamic terrorists are moving to Libya in large numbers and weapons for them are being smuggled in. Some military supplies for Islamic terrorists are being blatantly flown in from Sudan and no one is trying to stop that. One side effect of this is a stalemate in Benghazi, where months of fighting had slowly pushed many Islamic terrorists out of the city. That exodus has stopped.

Islamic terrorist militias loyal to Tripoli have been trying to take two oil export ports (Ras Lanuf and Es Sider/Sidra) since December 13th. These efforts have shut the two ports down. Troops and militias loyal to the Tobruk government have so far kept the ports from falling under Tripoli control. These two export ports can ship 300,000 barrels a day but have been closed for a week and will remain shut down until the Tripoli force is defeated. The Tripoli group apparently wants to take control of oil resources and thus have something to bargain with. Because of the Tripoli militias attacks on oil facilities production has dropped from 800,000 barrels a day in early December to 350,000 barrels now. This decline in exports has not had any noticeable impact world oil prices, which continue to slide.

The Libyan Air Force has begun making daily attacks on pro-Tripoli targets in Misrata, the city east of Tripoli that is the home of the militia coalition that backed the establishment of a rival government in Tripoli. Berber and tribal militias to the south oppose the Misrata coalition. Because of that there is still fighting in Tripoli, despite the Misrata militia taking control of the city in mid-2014 after months of fighting. It was this control that made possible the establishment of a rival government in Tripoli. Many factions in the Misrata coalition believe this rival government is a mistake but so far most of the Misrata groups are sticking with it.

The fighting in Libya killed nearly 3,000 people in 2014. The prospect of far more dying in 2015 from starvation and lack of medical care is becoming more likely. That’s because the country (and the two governments) are running out of cash and credit. In 2014 the government received only $16 billion (almost all of it from oil sales) versus three times that in 2013. The major problem here was the sharp drop in the sales price of oil (from $110 a barrel to $55) since 2013. Another year or two of this and life gets very miserable for Libyans but serious shortages of food are expected to start showing up in 2015 because of the increasingly chaotic civil war and the damage that is doing to the ability of anyone to move large quantities of anything (like food) around. The UN speaks of Libya as sliding into a state of anarchy. No one is willing to intervene militarily to prevent that. The Tripoli government is controlled by people who will not accept defeat and are willing to destroy the oil facilities to deny the Tobruk government victory. Some Tripoli leaders believe this threat may coerce the Tobruk government and their international supporters to support a compromise that will give the Islamic radicals more power than their numbers justify. That angers most Libyans who do not want to live in a country that, in effect, is forced to pay a portion of their national income to a bunch of terrorists. This could end very badly.

Despite continued pleas from the Tobruk government Egypt still insists that it will not intervene militarily but is apparently providing substantial, and secret, support to the Tobruk government. This comes in the form of air support, weapons and other military supplies and even some Egyptian special operations troops. A major concern of the Egyptians is the movement of weapons and Islamic terrorists into Egypt and there are a lot more Egyptian troops and police on the Libyan border since the June 2014 elections. What the Egyptians need is pro-Egypt forces controlling the Libyan side of the frontier. Thus the support for the Tobruk forces, which are strong in Eastern Libya as a coalition of Libyan Army units, tribal militias and anti-Islamic terrorist groups. General Hiftar, a former Kaddafi general and long-time Kaddafi opponent created this coalition of tribal militias and army units and is now officially part of the Tobruk government armed forces but still operates independently because the Tobruk is short of military experts and specialists capable of managing a military campaign. So is the Tripoli government and their resulting lack of coordination among their armed components is another advantage the Tobruk government has. The United States and the UN are trying to persuade Egypt, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Qatar to drop their support for more secular (and non-terrorist) pro-Tobruk factions fighting in Libya. The UN is sponsoring peace talks in Libya but Egypt sees this as futile and counterproductive because the Islamic terrorist factions really have no interest in compromising. Nevertheless Algeria and most Western nations (especially the EU) see a negotiated settlement as the best way to deal with the Libya civil war. The Tobruk government is going along with this, mainly because they cannot afford to annoy the UN.

The basic problem with foreign help is distrust. After 2011 the new Libyan government tolerated Islamic terrorist groups, who killed the American ambassador to Libya on September 11, 2012 and then stumbled into another civil war. This made clear that Arab gratitude is brittle and can quickly turn to treachery or hate. This has led to hesitation by the West in resuming support for any faction in Libya. Thus Libya is still in chaos as the factions continue to fight to decide who shall have what. Many Arabs blame the West for all this but the West has found that they get blamed no matter what they do. For the Arabs, no good deed goes unpunished and inaction gets the same mistreatment.

The United States is providing more assistance for the Tobruk government, in the form of aerial reconnaissance using satellites as well as UAVs operating from a base in Niger, a hundred kilometers south of the Libyan border. These UAVs are mainly keeping an eye on the growing number of Islamic terrorist bases in southern Libya. These are being used to train new recruits and plan attacks in Libya and elsewhere (including the West). ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) now has a presence in Libya, especially in the south.

The UN continues to try and organize peace talks, at least among the major factions. While the Tobruk government is willing the opposition is divided, mainly because most of the factions are Islamic radicals each of them believing they are the ones chose by Allah to conquer and rule Libya. This has always been a problem with Islamic radicals, that their primary motivation is the belief that they are on a Mission From God and that anyone who opposes them are enemies of Islam and subject to destruction.

January 8, 2015: In the east Islamic terrorists announced that they had killed two Tunisian journalists they had taken captive in September 2014.

January 7, 2015: Turkey warned all Turkish citizens to get out of Libya because of growing violence and anti-Turk sentiment. Turkey also warned all Turkish airlines to stay out of Libyan air space. This comes after the Tobruk government warned that it would shoot down any Turkish airliners or cargo aircraft entering Libya. This is all the result of the pro-Islamic radical Tripoli government having support from Turkey, Sudan and Qatar. Turkey says it supports the Islamic forces in Libya but that coalition includes many Islamic terror groups that the Turks insist they do not back. Meanwhile the Tobruk government has most of the world recognizing it, along with most of the Islamic world. Turkey is under growing international pressure to support the Tobruk government and has so far responded by accusing its foreign critics of conspiring against Turkey.

January 6, 2015: The Tobruk government has banned all Palestinians, Syrians and Sudanese from its territory. That is because these foreigners tend to be in Libya to join or support Islamic terrorist factions loyal to the Tripoli government.

January 4, 2015: The pro-Tobruk Libyan Air Force fired on a Greek tanker seeking to take on 12,000 tons of oil at the Libyan port of Brega and was moving it, along with some Islamic terrorist gunmen, to the Libyan port of Derna which is controlled by ISIL and the Tripoli government. Two members of the crew were killed and the tanker did not dock.

January 2, 2015: Fires at the Es Sider/Sidra oil port were extinguished after destroying over 800,000 barrels of oil awaiting shipment. The oil storage tanks at Es Sider can hold up to 6.2 million barrels. The fires did over $200 million in damage (including the cost of destroyed oil).

In the south (Jufra) a convoy of Islamic terrorists attacked an army checkpoint and killed 17 soldiers. The Islamic terrorist bases in the south are turning out more armed and trained (often minimally) men who are being sent out to drive the army and pro-government tribal militias away from the few roads, so the Islamic terrorists can freely move to and from the coast.

December 30, 2014: A Libyan Air Force jet shot down a pro-Tripoli helicopter that was being used to attack oil facilities in Es Sider. This was the second such helicopter shoot down recently.

In Tobruk a suicide car bomb went off outside parliament, wounding a few people. This attack was believed to have been planned in the ISIL controlled town of Derna.

December 29, 2014: The Libyan Air Force began daily air attacks on militias based in Misrata.

December 27, 2014: In Tripoli a car bomb went off outside the headquarters of the force assigned to protect the few foreign diplomats still stationed in the city. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, meant to discourage any non-Moslem foreigners from remaining in Libya. There aren’t many, most of them working for the UN. ISIL considers the UN an enemy of Islam.

December 25, 2014: Islamic terrorists in speedboats attacked the oil storage tanks at the port of Es Sider, setting several of them on fire with RPG rockets. The attack also left 22 soldiers dead. It would eventually take nine days to bring the fires under control. Tobruk officials accused Sudan of backing the Islamic terrorist group the made the attack.

In the west (Sirte, 500 kilometers east of Tripoli), the 13 year old daughter of two Egyptian Christians (both doctors) was found dead. She had been taken on the 23rd when gunmen invaded her home, killed her parents and kidnapped her. Two younger sisters were left behind. The attackers were believed to be Islamic terrorists, who have been increasingly violent against everyone, especially non-Moslems. Many skilled Egyptians go to Libya for work, but that is less of an option now that Islamic terrorists have turned the country into a sanctuary for all manner of outlaw behavior.

December 22, 2014: Egypt closed the Salloum border crossing, which is the main entry point for truck traffic from Egypt. The closing was at the request of the Tobruk government, which controls the Libyan side of the border at Salloum. The crossing was opened the next day and both countries have worked to increase scrutiny of those entering Libya. Many of those crossing who are not Libyan or Egyptian tend to be members (or those seeking to be) of Islamic terrorists groups. By denying the Islamic terrorists access to the major border crossing they must resort to the smuggling routes, which are more expensive, dangerous and time consuming.