Update and Assessment: December 21, 2016
By The Editors
December 21, 2016
- The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) increased the tempo of high-casualty explosive attacks targeting security forces in Aden, Yemen. ISIS Wilayat Aden-Abyan suicide bombers attacked security personnel gathering to receive salaries at al Sawlaban base in Aden city on December 10 and December 18, killing more than 50 people each time. The uptick in spectacular attacks advances ISIS’s objective to elevate its global standing and may deter recruits from joining Aden’s security forces. The attacks may hamper ISIS’s ability to compete with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, however. AQAP condemned ISIS’s December 10 attack in an effort to reinforce its relationships with southern Yemeni tribes and position itself as moderate compared to ISIS. [Read CTP’s assessment of ISIS’s objectives in Aden. Stay up-to-date on Yemen with the latest Yemen Crisis Situation Report.]
- Libya’s most powerful military factions may be pursuing a negotiated settlement, but renewed conflict remains possible. Political leaders have signaled a willingness to modify the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), which entered its second year on December 17, in an effort to bring key powerbrokers to the negotiating table. Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar attended high-level talks in Algeria, while Haftar’s rivals from the western Libya city of Misrata worked to de-escalate tensions over oil and control of Tripoli. Tensions remain high, however, as rival forces vie for control of the central Libyan coast after the official end of the counter-ISIS campaign in Sirte. Controversial issues, including the security of Libya’s capital and Field Marshal Haftar’s role in a future Libyan government, remain unresolved. [See CTP’s laydown of forces in Libya for background.]
- A Boko Haram faction affiliated with ISIS may control territory in northeastern Nigeria. The faction led by Abu Musab al Barnawi, the recognized leader of ISIS’s affiliate in West Africa, published a photoset showing members of the organization’s religious police enforcing shari’a law in a village on the shores of Lake Chad. The enforcement of shari’a law may indicate that the group controls a town, signaling growing strength. The group may also be conducting information operations designed to support its military efforts. Publicizing the control of terrain supports ISIS’s narrative of global expansion.