• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Simplifying The Libyan Conflict: Has The War Finally Come To An End, Or Has It Just Begun?

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Undeterred by desperate international pleas for a global ceasefire, the Libyan crisis has, in the past few weeks, undergone some of the most pivotal and momentous developments seen in months.

After more than a year of devastating military offensives launched by the Libyan National Army (LNA), the Libyan Governmental National Accord (GNA) was finally able to reclaim many strategic strongholds such as the al-Watiya airbase, and 2 towns near the Tunisian border, from the unpredictable military commander: Khalifa Haftar.

Despite this news seeming like a flicker of hope for the end of Haftar’s reign of terror, UN Libyan envoys have warned that this escalation will do nothing but worsen the conflict, especially at a time of such global instability.

In this article, I’ll attempt to simplify the factors blamed for the Libyan crisis, along with who the most prominent figures in the conflict are, and how international powers have been blamed for derailing any prospects of peace.

Who is Muammar Gaddafi?

Gaddafi is largely considered the match that triggered the Libyan Civil War.

After overthrowing Libya’s king in a bloodless coup during 1969, the young Gaddafi immediately seized power and prompted sweeping governmental reforms.

He presented the country with a new ‘democratic’ system, called the “authority of the people”, and had been widely praised for turning Libya into the first developing country to receive a majority of the revenues from its own oil production.

However, as the years passed, it became increasingly obvious that the ‘democratic system’ Gaddafi praised himself on was, instead, an ultra-hierarchical pyramid: Gaddafi’s family and close allies flaunted unbridled power over all aspects of the government, whilst those who disagreed with his authority suffered legal penalties such as execution, or imprisonment.

Although popular opinion considers Gaddafi a remorseless dictator, others view him as a leader who simply wanted to make use of Libya’s natural resources to reconstruct Africa and improve the financial conditions of his people.

Libyan Civil War Of 2011

In 2011, Libyan citizens rallied against Gaddafi’s government. Their peaceful protests were met with violent responses, and, as the bloodshed intensified, rebel forces stepped in, escalating the conflict dramatically.

The rising death toll and widespread destruction attracted international attention, and soon, a multi-state NATO-led coalition launched a military intervention, demanding an ‘immediate ceasefire’.

The NATO forces announced that they would take any measures necessary to ensure the protection of Libyan citizens. Nonetheless, as airstrikes and military attacks commenced between the multiple fronts, tens of innocent civilians were killed, and many more were injured.

NATO’s strange and unwavering dedication to the Libyan people sparked speculation amongst many. Some began to claim that their intervention was merely for economic purposes- not humanitarian.

During his time in power, Gaddafi made sure to encourage the African currency and advertise the use of the 'Golden Dinar', jeopardizing the U.S. dollar’s worldwide dominance. It is theorized that America feared Africa turning away from the dollar as a reserve currency, and, as a result, backed the assassination of Gaddafi to eliminate his imminent threat.

Violence persisted between allies of Gaddafi, and those opposing his rule, until, on a fateful day in October 2011, Gaddafi was pulled from a drainage pipe, tortured, and killed.

The assassination of Gaddafi had officially liberated Libya. However, peace lasted for a fleeting moment, as innocent civilians were thrown into another whirlwind of violence.

The power vacuum created due to Gadhafi’s assassination was an opportunity for militia and rebel groups to emerge from the rubble and try to take hold of the broken nation.

Khalifa Haftar’s sudden appearance and steady rise to power

Khalifa Haftar shocked the region when he re-emerged as a powerful force against Gaddafi in the 2011 civil war

Haftar, who was once a loyal supporter of Gaddafi, had been used as a scapegoat by Gaddafi officials after a mission-gone-wrong in Chad and was subsequently taken as a prisoner of war.

Haftar was able to seek refuge in America, where he gained citizenship, established close ties with the CIA, and planned his route back into Libyan politics.

When NATO forces placed Gaddafi’s government under tremendous strain, Haftar knew this was his only chance to re-establish his authority in Libya.

With the help of Egypt and the UAE, Haftar set base in the east of Libya, consolidated power, and built the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The Elections That Led To Destruction

A year after Gaddafi’s assassination, a democratic election finally took place. The General National Congress (GNC), who were highly influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, were handed the authority.

Nonetheless, they failed to establish a stable leadership in the time they were given and were ordered to step down.

However, they held on to their power, kick-starting Libya’s second civil war.

After continued pressures and multiple attacks by Haftar’s forces, the House of Representatives (HoR) were officially elected in June 2014. However, as a result of the 18% voter turnout, the GNC did not recognize the HoR as a legitimate governmental body for the country.

Libya was then split into two governments: the GNC in Tripoli; and the HoR in Tobruk, where they aligned with Haftar’s forces.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE firmly supported Haftar’s forces during this politically unstable period, sending thousands of troops, funding, and weaponry.

This untiring support for Haftar’s front is thought to have come as a result of their shared hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood, who would have had a large influence over the region if the GNC remained in power.

Efforts by the UNSC to mend the divided state began in early 2015 when they established a new Libyan government (the GNA).

The GNC originally opposed the GNA, however, after the formation of the State Council (an advisory body made of members of the GNC who could influence decisions taken by both the GNA and HoR) the GNC agreed to back down.

Despite gaining international recognition, and national approval, the GNA was not accepted by Haftar’s forces who, in 2019, led an offensive that captured Western areas of Libya, along with many regions in Tripoli including the International Airport, from GNA forces.

Since its December 2015 inception, the GNA has made little progress in unifying the country, and, as the fight for Libyan territory and sovereignty persists, hundreds of thousands have been forced to seek refuge and thousands more have fell victim to horrendous war crimes.

In recent months, however, the tables took an unexpected turn, as Turkish troops landed in Libya to aid GNA forces. Their increased intervention shifted the dynamics of the conflict and encouraged the GNA's sudden successes.

Many expect that the GNA's triumph will be the start of the end of Haftar’s rule. However, with the UAE’s generous funding, and Russia, Egypt, and Suadi's unending support, it is unlikely that the LNA will go down without a fight.

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