Mirroring the Iraqi Army progress in Mosul, the LNA is clearing Islamic militants from Benghazi and has advanced from Suq-al-Hout, which was captured on Friday. Many civilians wish to return to their homes, but there are undiscovered booby traps among the residences, so they will have to wait until the de-mining teams finish their work.
Recognizing recent progress, the UAE deputy chief of staff Major General Eisa Saif Al-Mazrouei visited the LNA over the weekend. It does look like the fractured eastern part of Libya is becoming more cohesive, but will this lead to a greater division with the West?
See Chapter 6 of Belfast to Benghazi for an understanding of the historic tensions between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.
After four months, the Secretary General has finally announced the replacement for Martin Kobler, who will be remembered for successfully brokering the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement.
Good luck to Lebanon’s Ghassan Salamé, who has taken on the intractable task of finding compromise between the 3 centres of power in Libya. The Tobruk-based, House of Representatives supported by General Haftar’s Libyan National Army is as far away as ever from the UN backed Government of National accord, headed by Fayez al-Serraj. Add the Misratan mavericks into the mix and it is easy to see why we should not anticipate a quick political resolution in 2017.
It is widely reported that Saif al-Islam has been released from Zintan under an amnesty issued by the House of Representatives. Will he be a figure in the increasing division between East and West, or disappear into the desert? Whatever happens, he is still indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. See page 254 of Belfast to Benghazi for the story of his capture in 2011 and my visit to Zintan soon afterwards.
In a joint operation, forces from Misratah and Zliten have arrested a Libyan man running one of the biggest human trafficking rings in the country along with 168 illegal migrants.
It is good to see the divided Libyan forces are beginning to work together to stem the tide. This small step forward will help build confidence with the international community, which is making large donations to improve the conditions in the migrants detention centres.
The Presidency Council has announced the formation of 7 military zones across Libya. These are Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, Sebha, Kufra and the Central and Western regions. They have grouped Misratah and the Tunisian border area within the Tripoli zone, which will cause problems. See page 264 of Belfast to Benghazi for the 7 areas of strategic interest in 2011, each with unique security challenges as well as common problems of militia integration and border security.