Update and Assessment: July 20, 2016

July 20, 2016

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) continued its controlled withdrawal of personnel and leadership from Sirte, on Libya’s central coastline. The tactical withdrawal is intended to preserve ISIS in Libya’s capabilities and will enable the group to relocate for continued operations in the Maghreb region. It is unlikely that the Libyan armed factions involved in the counter-ISIS fight will prioritize the pursuit of ISIS over their own objectives. [See Emily Estelle’s “ISIS’s Courses of Action – Out of Sirte” for more.]
  2. Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab, targeted Somali government sites in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab launched a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) that Somali security forces intercepted and cleared on July 14. The assessed target was a gathering of Somali politicians at the Makka al Mukarama Hotel. Somali security forces seized a second VBIED outside of Mogadishu on July 13.
  3. CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel indicated that the U.S. military may expand its counter-terrorism presence in Yemen to combat al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on July 15. AQAP has strengthened over the course of the Yemeni civil war, and a recent Emirati-led operation to roll back its territorial gains will not weaken the group for the long term. AQAP claimed three VBIED attacks in Aden and al Mukalla port cities, targeting Yemeni security forces. [Keep up to date on Yemen with CTP’s Situation Reports.]