On March 19, the United States launched Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya following the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizing the use of all necessary measures to protect civilians from assaults by forces loyal to Libyan Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. U.S. forces have helped establish a no-fly zone and naval arms embargo, and degraded Col. Qaddafi's air assets, surface-to-air defenses and command and control infrastructure. Additional airstrikes targeting Col. Qaddafi's armed forces in the days since March 19 effectively staved off the opposition's immediate defeat. U.S. and coalition forces are now operating under North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command.
The outcome of the Libyan war remains uncertain as evidenced by the pendulum swing of control in key towns between Tripoli in the west and Benghazi in the east. Neither Qaddafi’s forces nor armed opposition fighters have demonstrated an ability to achieve a decisive victory or consolidate territorial gains for any appreciable time period. Further, NATO's role in the war could evolve amidst indications that some coalition members, including the U.S., are considering arming opposition forces.
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ISIS is laying the groundwork to abandon Sirte and will then pursue an alternate course of action to continue its campaign in North Africa without its Libyan stronghold.
Libya is a safe-haven for the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), al Qaeda, and other Salafi-jihadi groups. These groups use territory in Libya to train and prepare for terrorist attacks in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt and to support the establishment of like-minded groups elsewhere in North Africa.
ISIS is executing a sophisticated, multi-front campaign against Libya’s oil facilities, demonstrating the organization’s growing capability abroad. ISIS’s safe haven in Libya will allow it to survive even if it is defeated in Iraq and Syria.
On September 11, 2012, armed Salafists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing four U.S. personnel including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. An examination of the environment in the months leading up to the attack reveals the growing strength and tendency towards violence of numerous armed Salafist groups across Libya.
On October 20, Libyan Colonel Muammar Qaddafi was killed while reportedly fleeing Sirte. His death is the capstone of the Libyan revolution. While an auspicious moment for Libyans, there are many questions that remain over Libya's future.
The Libya campaign has been bogged down and unnecessarily prolonged as a result of excessive political limitations on NATO's use of force. Had the alliance used decisive military action at the outset, the campaign might not be headed towards stalemate.
The inherent contradictions between the Obama Administration's stated policy aim of removing Moammar Qaddafi from power and the restrictions on the military operations now underway in Libya may be reaching a decisive point.
On March 19, the United States launched Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya. This joint AEI and ISW tracker will provide continuous updates on U.S. and coalition operations and on the latest developments in Libya with a focus on the activities of pro-Qaddafi and opposition forces.