For over a year, the United States has been disengaged from Libya’s turmoil, with President Donald Trump declaring America had “no interest” in its interminable civil war.
That all changed Friday December 1st, when the President abruptly announced a rethink in a meeting with the head of Libya’s UN-backed Government National Accord, Fayez Sarraj to declare his “commitment to helping the Libyan people realize a more stable, unified, and prosperous future.”
For some, the engagement of the world’s only hyper-power in Libya’s chaos is just the shot in the arm that the UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, needs as he struggles to end the fighting. But the potential for “mission creep” remains high.
However noble Trumps intentions toward Libya might be, the UN-chosen Government of National Accord is a dog that don’t hunt.
Its creation was spearheaded by the Obama administration two years ago this month, throwing support behind the Muslim Brotherhood friendly UN-named Prime Minister Fayez Serraj and eight other Libyans – nominated by a UN commission – to run the country and end the civil war.
The GNA has done no such thing. Two of the nine presidency members have quit, and the GNA itself, having no national legitimacy or popular support, is a government in name only, occupying a Tripoli naval base because the city itself is held by all-powerful squabbling militias.
This is Serraj’s Army: paid mercenaries who are a loose coalition of militias.
Those militias, which seized power from the legitimate parliament back in 2014, are fighting amongst themselves, which is one reason why in the past twelve months they have endured a string of defeats against the eastern army of Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army is bigger, better armed and trained than the militias and has been rolling them up in a series of offensives that have captured the eastern oil crescent, home to most of Libya’s oil, along with Benghazi, the eastern capital.
Those successes have crushed Islamist militias, some aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) which the Obama administration favored as a key bulwark to Libyan stability – even though most Libyans long since rejected them. Not forgetting many Arab countries designate the MB as a terrorist organization, including American allies UAE, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
The UN and some European Union powers still cling to the myth that the GNA, unelected and unloved, can become a true unity government, forgetting that Haftar, and a rival government in the eastern city of Al Baida, now control most of the country along with its oil.
Neither is willing to cut a deal with the GNA, Serraj, or the Islamist and Misratan militias that control Tripoli and western Libya. Instead, they are demanding that the militias who have dominated the capital since the 2011 revolution disband and hand themselves over to regular police and army formations.
Trump’s statement backs joint actions against…