Update and Assessment: August 24, 2016

August 24, 2016

Key Takeaways:

  1. The failure of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to achieve legitimacy may impede U.S. efforts to partner with it for future operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and other enemy groups in Libya.  A democratically elected body, whose mandate expired in October 2015, based in eastern Libya voted no-confidence in the GNA and its prime minister on August 22. The vote is contested, but might invalidate prior GNA decisions if upheld. These decisions could include the GNA’s July 2016 request for U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Sirte. Political turmoil will continue to undermine local and international efforts to defeat ISIS and other Salafi-jihadi groups in Libya. [See Frederick W. Kagan and Emily Estelle’s “ISIS Loses Headquarters in Sirte, Libya.” Keep up with CTP’s Libya work here.]
  2. Russia is attempting to use Yemen’s political crisis opportunistically to expand its sphere of influence in the Arabian Peninsula. Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered Russia access to Yemen’s bases, airports, and ports in an interview with a Russian state news outlet on August 21. Saleh’s statement follows the Russian Charge d’Affaires for Yemen’s vocal support for an al Houthi-Saleh power-sharing body established on August 15. Russia has opposed measures that favor President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government over the al Houthi-Saleh alliance, though it has also taken steps to placate Saudi Arabia and other international supporters of the Hadi government. Russia will continue to maneuver on both sides of the political crisis in order to advance its own interests in the event of a negotiated settlement in Yemen. [Keep up to date on Yemen with CTP’s Situation Reports.]
  3. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri called for fighters to unify in their support for the Afghan Taliban and to reject and ignore ISIS. Zawahiri’s call was probably a reaction to ISIS’s resurgence in parts of Afghanistan, as well as continuing reports of Taliban militants switching allegiance to ISIS. Zawahiri’s statement was likely timed to rally support for an ongoing Taliban offensive to control Kunduz city in northern Afghanistan. Zawahiri accused ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, of sowing discord among the mujahideen