Pentagon confirmed a ‘small’ resurgence in the number of Islamic State fighters in Libya. Pentagon official, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva told Al-Monitor that the revival of IS forces surfaced lately since the forces led by Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar began its march westward to capture the capital Tripoli about two months ago.
Libya, which has been battling political instability since its dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a 2011 uprising saw emergence of two major forces in 2014; one governed by UN-backed Fayez Al Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli in west and other Benghazi-based General Khalif Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in east. In between the two divided territories, there run miles of no-man land, which is used by ISIS as a breeding ground. The rival IS forces owes it to the rising conflict between Sarraj and Haftar. Haftar who controls more than two-third of Libya aims to unify the oil-rich African country by capturing Tripoli and wants to liberate the country’s oil fields from being exploited in foreign hands.
ISIS once had a stronghold over Libya, especially in the coastal city of Sirte, before being wiped out by US-Nato forces in 2016. Though right now ISIS lacks the ability to control any major territory in Libya, they are doing their best to regroup, which is ominous for the country.
IS resurgence turns Libyan crisis worse, where international players are already struggling to achieve a ceasefire, especially with Turkey deploying 2000 Syrian rebel fighters to support GNA. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a military pact with Sarraj in November 2019, extending a helping hand to GNA, offering to combat the rival forces of Haftar, in exchange for letting Ankara conduct energy exploration in its region.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited Haftar and announced that Berlin would be hosting peace talks between rival parties of Haftar and Sarraj to ensure both reinstate a weapons embargo imposed by the UN. Among the other members attending the talks (to be held on Sunday) would be Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European leaders.
In recent times, this is the second attempt at achieving a ceasefire in Libya after Moscow talks failed, held earlier this week. Haftar declined to sign the peace agreement with Erdogan after Erdogan further intensified the country’s internal clashes, which since April killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters and displaced tens of thousands.
It’s all the more important now for Haftar and Sarraj to join hands in peace to unite the key fight the ISIS forces.
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