Libyan Crisis, Civil War and ISIS
By Philip Harris Feb. 23, 2017
The Libyan conflicts are unique in many ways. Just like in Syria in 2011 there was a popular uprising in Libya as well in spring of 2011. These protests in the Middle East in the spring of 2011 have been called the Arab Spring. The Arab spring caused protests in most of the oppressed nations in the middle east and some Muslim African nations. The protests across the Libyan country led to whats know as the First Libyan Civil War.
In Libya’s first civil war the popular protests were driven by the idea of removing their country’s dictator president Muammar Gaddafi. Civil war broke out under the Arab Spring because there was a huge anti Gaddafi force (created Feb. 2011) that started to pick up weapons and fight Gaddafi’s regime. The anti Gadaffi forces shortly after establishing themselves as the resistance to Gaddafi, were being defeated regularly on the battlefield by Gaddafi’s forces. In winning those battles, president Gaddafi was accused of numerous atrocities against his own civilian population.
On March 21st 2011, NATO and the U.S. warplanes intervened to stop the atrocities not just by Gadaffi, but also on both sides of the conflict. Not too long after NATO and the U.S intervened, the international community noticed the atrocities being committed by the government in Libya and issued an arrest warrant for president Gadaffi on June 27th 2011. NATO and the U.S. then set up no fly zones in Libya to ground Gadaffi’s Air Force, assisting the anti Gaddafi forces wrestle back territory from Gaddafi’s forces.
With the Libyan Air Force not being able to fly because of the NATO and U.S. Air Forces being in control of the airspace, Gaddafi was removed from power on August 20th 2011. Gaddafi himself was not found in Libya until anti Gaddafi forces raided Sirte, Libya on October 20th 2011 and killed Gaddafi. This ended the first Libyan Civil War, but in doing so created a power gap that many people and militias were desperately trying to fill.
Libya at the end of 2011 had no leadership or a president to take control of the land and to maintain order. All of the infighting between the different rebel groups caused there to be a power vacuum so large that an unknown at the time terror organization was setting it’s sights on that exact power vacuum. That terror group eventually named itself The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
Violence again flared back up in the summer 2016, when the Libyan forces now under the United Nations (U.N.) backed Government of National Accord (GNA) started to realize ISIS was a larger threat, and started to ask the U.S. for help when ISIS started seizing vital sea ports, oil facilities and territory in Libya. The U.S. once again brought in their air force to help and assist their installed government. Because the war against ISIS had been raging for years prior to the intervention in Libya, the U.S. could help wipe ISIS from Libyan territory before they got extremely entrenched like they are in Iraq and Syria.
The ISIS stronghold of Sirte, Libya was the most difficult to dislodge from ISIS because they flooded the citiy with veteran and experienced snipers. Without the help of the U.S. air force, the GNA was in for a real tough time clearing the city. Supporting the GNA, the U.S. conducted 470 airstrikes in Sirte alone (theguardian.com).
In the beginning of December 2015 ISIS was driven from Sirte, their last stronghold, and wider Libya in general. ISIS and many other terror organizations have kept an eye on Libya because the government is very junior and still needs assistance in setting itself up. Libya currently is being reorganized into cantons of different influence. It will be interesting and it looks like a potential war powder keg for the near future and in the long run. This is an area to keep an eye on, the terrorists are.