The Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB), over the last few weeks and months, has been steadily reclaiming Libyan territory from the the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ISIL occupation. They have now captured five cities and two major oil-producing areas in the east of Libya after opposing forces carried out air raids around major oil ports overnight. The area, known better as the oil crescent of Libya, has largely been a hotbed for the extremists, who have multiple strongholds within the region. At least nine men were killed in the fighting on Friday as the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied forces retreated from the oil ports of Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, two of Libya’s largest export terminals, following the attacks by the BDB.
ISIL had gained control of the territory through the chaos amidst the massive political instability that engulfed the nation after the ousting of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Their control expanded as the country grew more and more divided. Currently, the two political parties are attempting to stake their claim over Libya: The Government of National Accord (GNA), backed by the UN, and the other led by General Khalifa Haftar, with control of the LNA. ISIL has relinquished control of the city of Sirte, the final city where they fortified their control since early 2015. The assault raised the prospect of a new escalation of violence around the ports and put at risk a sharp boost to Libya’s oil production, which was achieved after the LNA took over four ports in September, ending a blockade at three of them. Though Es Sider and Ras Lanuf have been reopened for exports, they were badly damaged due to past fighting and are operating well below capacity.
Many leaders and journalists are signaling this to be the end of ISIL in Libya, but it’s of the most importance to minimize the spread of their influence. Regional stability in Libya is crucial in terms of European security interest and stifling the influence of ISIL, as well as other insurgencies throughout Africa and Europe. Sometimes it is as easy as geography, for instance, Libya sits as an important link between North Africa, Europe, and the countries surrounding it, such as Tunisia, Algeria, and Nigeria. Tunisia and Algeria, with the support of British troops, have fortified their borders in hopes of limiting the extremists entering their nations as they prepare to flee from Libya. Without political and institutional unity, the divided powers will not be able to exercise any legitimate form of power, further diminishing the potential of the nation. For now, Libya remains a hotbed for insurgency since its Civil War in 2014, and its future relies heavily on diplomatic negotiations between the two parties as they battle for control of Libya.
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