Anti — 4 July 2016

Jul 4, 2016 | Libyan actors

Three key developments were identified last week: 1) The unabated momentum of the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Bunyan Marsus coalition against ISIS in Sirte, 2) the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) surge eradicated the remaining pockets of jihadi fighters in southwestern Benghazi and 3) and the influence of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) in the oil crescent has taken a significant hit.

The GNA’s Misratan-led Bunyan Marsus coalition reclaimed a significant amount of territory from ISIS in Sirte last week.  The coalition captured the port, the 700 residential complex and the western Zafaraan area, closing in on ISIS’s main defenses and the denser urban areas of the city. However, as the battle drags on, the louder the criticism of the GNA from its Misratan fighters.  The Misratans see the GNA as a political usurper of Misratan sacrifices in Sirte, and bizarrely, also seem to fear that their gains will be used in Haftar’s favor. This perception is causing increased tensions between the Misratans and other GNA-aligned fighters. At the same time, a number of Tripoli militias have withdrawn from the fight in Sirte due to perceived Misratan domination of the fight.  These developments indicate a possible escalation in Tripoli between hardline Misratans and their allies, and militias protecting the GNA in the capital.

The LNA made more strategic gains in Benghazi last week, eradicating the final pockets of militants from the southwestern areas of the city and launching a new assault on the last remaining ISIS and Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council (BRSC) militants in Benghazi city center on 3 July.  The LNA took complete control of Ganfuda on 1 July, including the Nowruz and Aseel beaches, which were still being used by the militants only a few days ago to bring in goods and ammunition and remove wounded and fleeing fighters. The presence of ISIS and the BRSC in Benghazi is now confined to Soug al-Hoot & al-Sabri areas, following the rout of Garyounis and Ganfuda.

Meanwhile, the influence of Ibrahim Jadhran’s PFG in the oil crescent continues to wane.  The PFG, which was tasked by the GNA defense minister to secure Ajdabiya against attack from Islamist militias, withdrew from the city on 1 July, returning to Sidra and Ras Lanuf. The withdrawal came on the heels of heightened tensions between the LNA and the PFG, after LNA airstrikes targeted PFG camps in Ajdabiya. The PFG had entered the fray early last week, managing to push the jihadists south of Ajdabiya to the 60 kilometer checkpoint.  However, the backlash against Jadhran increased rapidly, with many locals throwing their support behind the LNA. The PFG’s withdrawal from Ajdabiya has already allowed the LNA to recapture Field 108, which feeds Zeuitina port, and opens the way for increasing LNA control over oil infrastructure in the area.