March 13, 2017
Fighting Forces in Libya: March 2017
Libyan factions’ fight for control of the country’s oil resources may set in motion a larger conflict between rival power centers. A coalition of militias led by the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), an Islamist militia linked to al Qaeda associate Ansar al Sharia, seized the and oil terminals from the Libyan National Army (LNA) on March 3. The BDB has indicated that it may cede control of the terminals to Libya’s National Oil Company and forces aligned with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, responded with a barrage of airstrikes on March 12 and may be massing a force to retake the ports. The LNA’s response may lead to direct conflict with the GNA and its backers, igniting an east vs. west conflict similar to the 2014 civil war. War in the oil crescent would also overstretch the LNA in Benghazi, where it improved security in 2016 but now faces a renewed Islamist insurgency supported and possibly coordinated by the al Qaeda network. The surging conflict may also harm Libya’s oil-dependent economic recovery and draw security resources away from western Libya, where the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) aims to reconstitute.
Cristina Martin Ristori contributed research to this piece.