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Libya Country Profile

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Home > Country Profiles > Libya


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Map of Libya in North Africa


Libya is currently (2016) a country in turmoil. It lacks a central authority with no single government in charge. There are a number of militia groups and political factions vying for control and influence. In addition, the Islamic State is developing a movement within the country. The army has difficulty in controlling its forces. The militias are divided by region and tribe - are unaccountable and poorly organized.

 

 

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Government

Gaddafi Overthrown - 2011 Revolution. The long-time leader of Libya - Muammar Gaddafi - was ousted from power after a long conflict where the rebel forces were assisted by airpower from Europe and the United States. This event was heralded as one of the "Arab Spring" successes. The United States, along with about 19 allied states, intervened with aerial strikes and the establishment of no-fly zones with the intent of advancing local militias on the ground. Legal cover was provided by Security Council Resoluton 1973.

Split Government. The country has had two governments since August 2014. At this time an Islamist-backed militia took control of Tripoli forcing the Libyan parliament to take refuge in the east of the country. Each one is backed by various militia groups that rose up after the removal of Gaddafi. There has been an armed struggle between the two factions that has created a security vacumn which ISIS has taken advantage of. The two rival governments are referred to as the "General National Congress" and the "House of Representatives". There are moderates and 'hardline' members in both groups.

General National Congress (GNC). The GNC is based in Tripoli. Some observers associate the GNC with hardline Islamic groups. The leading faction in Tripoli is called "Libya Dawn". This faction is aided by Qatar and Turkey.

House of Representatives (HoR). The HoR is reportedly made up of ex-Gaddafi loyalists wishing to return the old regime to power. It is based in the eastern city of Tobruk. Eastern military forces are led by General Khalifa Haftar - a former Gaddafi ally. The international community, for the most part, recognizes the HoR as the Libyan government. There are some disunity problems within the HoR that may short-circuit international efforts at a unity government. 6.   This faction has been backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Eygpt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

New Government. A United Nations brokered agreement has formed a unity government (January 2016) that includes representatives from most of Libyas tribes and regions. The new government is called the "Government of National Accord (GNA)". 1. The 'presidential council' of Libya has named the new government - although two of its nine members rejected the government plan. The number of governmental ministers has swelled to 32. 3.  While the international community is hopeful with this new agreement for a national unity government - prospects of success are dim. 7. 

 

 

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Islamic State in Libya

Islamic State. The conflict between the different factions in Libya opened the door for ISIS to establish a foothold in Libya. ISIS has built up in Libya over the past year. In early 2015 ISIS seized the city of Derna where it made headlines with its release of a video of the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians along a beach. 5.  It's fighters have carved out a small enclave of territory along the northern coast of Libya - controlling about 100 miles of coastline. It is estimated that over 3,000 ISIS fighters are now in the area of the city of Sirte (sometimes transliterated as Surt or Sert). They have attacked oil facilities and police training centers. Their probable long-term objective is to hold terrain from which they can send operatives, extract money from oil industry, and provide refuge for fighters that may need to escape from Syria or Iraq (if things goe south for ISIS in that region).

 

 

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Notable Events

Benghazi. In September 2012 the U.S. Consulate was overrun by militants which led to the death of the U.S. Ambassador - J. Christopher Stevens - and three other Americans. This event has led to a significant level of discord within the U.S. political environment - and has been the subject of books, movies (13 Hours), media attention, and Congressional hearings.

Senior ISIS Leader Killed. In November 2015 the United States killed the Islamic State's leader in Libya. He was known as Abu Nabil and was hit by an F-15 airstrike.

 

 

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Training Libyan Security Forces

Initial Training Efforts - Post Revolution. Following the 2011 revolution the Western powers attempted to help in the establishment of security with training programs but these were largely unsuccessful. In 2013 the United States halted a special operations program after militants ransacked a U.S. training base and took off with U.S. equipment. Attempts to train up Libyan security personnel outside of Libya did not pan out well; and is unlikely to be replicated.

"Building Partner Capacity". In an effort to stabilize the country and prevent the spread of the Islamic State (IS) the United States and other NATO countries are attempting to build the capacity of the Libyan armed forces to secure the country and conduct operations against IS fighters.

Possible Future Training Efforts. Some news reports indicate that trainers and advisors might be placed at the senior levels of the security ministries and also provide support to some of the law enforcement agencies. In addition, advisors would work with the remnants of the Libya army to establish a training program and assist in the move to degrade and defeat ISIS. The securing of Libya's borders is also a concern so trainers and advisors may be positioned to assist with the Libyan border security organizations.

Foreign Troops to Soon Deploy? According to some news sources the United Kingdom may be committing about 1,000 troops while Italy may contribute up to 5,000 troops for a training mission in Libya. U.S. and British Special Forces are believed to be already operating in Libya in a low-profile capacity. 2.  The intent is to develop a local stabilization force and a counter-terrorism capability.

 

 

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U.S. State Department Resources on Libya

Libya - U.S. State Department
www.state.gov/p/nea/ci/ly/index.htm

Libya Travel Warning - U.S. State Department
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/libya-travel-warning.html

Alerts, Warnings, & Info on Libya - Department of State
http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/libya.html

Guide to U.S. Relations with Libya - Office of the Historian, U.S. Dept of State
https://history.state.gov/countries/libya

U.S. Ambassador to Libya - Deborah K. Jones
www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/117491.htm

U.S. Relations with Libya - Fact Sheet
www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5425.htm

 

 

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Informational Resources on Libya

Libya - CIA World Factbook
www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ly.html

CIA Activities in Libya by WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_activities_in_Libya

Libya - Country Reports
www.countryreports.org/country/Libya.htm

Libya - Infoplease
www.infoplease.com/country/libya.html

Libya - a Country Study by Library of Congress
www.loc.gov/item/88600480/

Encyclopedia Britannica - Libya
www.britannica.com/place/Libya

WikipediA - Libya
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya

USAID in Libya - United States Agency for International Development
www.usaid.gov/libya

Libya Project - Institute for the Study of War (ISW)
www.understandingwar.org/project/libya-project

Conflict Map - Libya Post Qaddafi
www.conflictmap.org/conflict/libya

Libya Analysis - by Jason Pack (post Qaddafi conflict)
www.libya-analysis.com

Eye on ISIS in Libya - by Jason Pack
www.eyeonisisinlibya.com

Research & Publications: Libya by Middle East Institute
www.mei.edu/research/region/libya

Libya by Crisis Group
www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/libya.aspx

Libya Country Update - European Forum
www.europeanforum.net/country/libya

United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)
http://unsmil.unmissions.org

Libyan Mission to the United Nations
www.libyanmission-un.org/en/

 

 

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History of Libya

History of Libya - by WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Libya

History of Libya - by History World
www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=haj

Libya Profile & Timeline - BBC News
www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13755445

A Short History of Libya - Local Histories
www.localhistories.org/libya.html

Libya: History - Global Edge, Michigan State University
http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/libya/history

Brief History & Prehistory of Libya - by Temehu Travel
www.temehu.com/History-of-Libya.htm

A Short History of Libya - by Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre
http://peaceandjustice.org.uk/newsletter/intervention-2/a-short-history-of-libya/

 

 

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Current Conflict in Libya

Libyan Civil War (2014 - Present) - by WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libyan_Civil_War_(2014%E2%80%93present)

Libya Revolt of 2011
www.britannica.com/event/Libya-Revolt-of-2011

Global Conflict Tracker - Civil War in Libya by Council on Foreign Relations
www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/civil-war-in-libya

Libya - The New York Times
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/libya/index.html

 

 

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Culture of Libya

Libya - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette - by Kwintessential
www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/libya.html

Culture of Libya - by WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Libya

 Libya - by Countries and Their Cultures
 www.everyculture.com/Ja-Ma/Libya.html

Libya History, Language and Culture - by World Travel Guide
www.worldtravelguide.net/libya/history-language-culture

Culture Shock in Libya - by ExpatArrivals
www.expatarrivals.com/libya/culture-shock-in-libya

Libya - Culture Crossing Guide
http://guide.culturecrossing.net/basics_business_student.php?id=238

Libyana - Dedicated to Libyan Culture
www.libyana.org

"A rebirth of Berber culture in post-Gadhafi Libya", CNN, September 3, 2012.
www.cnn.com/2012/09/03/world/meast/libya-berber-amazigh-renaissance/

 

 

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Videos About Libya and the Conflict

Benghazi: Fighting on the frontline five years on from revolution, BBC News. 4 minute long video on the Libyan army's fight on two fronts - against the Islamic State and Islamist militias.
www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35425563

13 Hours in Benghazi Documentary Trailer, Posted on YouTube.com, July 20, 2015.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ku4zBRm0_q8

Libya - A Nest of Terrorism, a 10 minute documentary, August 17, 2015. Traces the history of Gaddafi's rule, the battle to topple him, and the bloody civil war that followed.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX7apCCDmys

Could ISIS Take Over Libya?, by Test Tube News, posted on YouTube.com February 21, 2015. Provides a quick explanation of the conflict in 3 minute long video.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm9brfKcJNA

Life After Qaddafi - Libya: A Broken State, by Vice News, November 12, 2014. 13 minute long video of the armed groups in control of Tripoli; following members of the rebel group called the 17th February Battalion.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbqf27GIkaw

What Does Libya After Gaddafi Look Like?, Test Tube News, August 27, 2014. A look at the different governments since the fall of Qaddafi.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAEix8-Zk2U

Inside Libya's Militias, by Vice News, April 1, 2014. A look at the 300 different milita groups in the country.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a_RKu6dTa0

Libya Throughout History - by the Mosque Foundation, Monthly English Program, published on YouTube.com on July 27, 2013.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQKD_JTrpH0

 

 

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Maps of Libya

 

Map of Libya

Libyan Civil War Live Map (2014-Ongoing) by Conflict News
www.conflict-news.com/libyan-civil-war-live-map-2014-ongoing/

War in Libya: Map of Control in August 2015 -  by Political Geography Now
www.polgeonow.com/2015/08/war-in-libya-map-of-control-in-august.html

Map of Libya - United Nations
www.un.org/depts/Cartographic/map/profile/libya.pdf

Map of Ethnic Groups of Libya - Wikimedia.org
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Libya_ethnic.svg

Map of Oil Fields in Libya - Wikimedia.org
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Libya_location_map-oil_%26_gas_2011-en.svg

Mpa of Administrative Division - WikipediA
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libya-administrative-divisions

Map - Libyan Civil War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Libyan_Civil_War.png

Map - Libya's Tribes
www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/news/photos/2011/03/03/si-libya-tribe-map-460.jpg

 

 

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Publications & Papers on Libya
(chronological order)

Ronen, Yehudit, "Libya's Descent into Chaos: North African Turmoil", The Middle East Quarterly, Volume 23: Number 1, Winter 2016.
www.meforum.org/5686/libya-descent-into-chaos

Libyan Political Agreement, signed on 17 December 2015.
Copy posted on UNSMIL website.

Blanchard, Christopher M., Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service (CRS), August 3, 2015.
www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33142.pdf

Serwer, Daniel P., Libya's Escalating Civil War, Contingency Planning Memo Update, Council on Foreign Relations, June 2015.
www.cfr.org/libya/libyas-escalating-civil-war/p36649

Relief Web, Libya - Humanitarian Impact of the Conflict, ACAPS Secondary Data Review, June 5, 2015.
http://reliefweb.int/ . . . /-humanitarian-impact-of-conflict-5-jun-2015.pdf

Mitchell, Jon, War in Libya and its Futures - The Islamic State Advance and Impacts, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, March, 9, 2015.
www.redanalysis.org/2015/03/09/updates-war-libya-futures/

Engel, Andrew, Libya's Civil War: Rebuilding the Country for the Ground Up, Research Notes, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Number 25 - April 2015.
www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/ResearchNote25_Engel3.pdf

Basic, Alija, Libya: A Contemporary Conflict in a Failing State, Master's Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, March 2015.
www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA620597

Lima, Giancarlo, Libya: On the Brink, American Security Project, January 2015.
www.americansecurityproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Ref-183-Libya-on-the-Brink.pdf

Kupermann, Alan, Lessons from Libya: How Not to Intervene, a policy brief of Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, September 2013.
http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/23387/lessons_from_libya.html

Blanchard, Christopher M., Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service (CRS), October 18, 2012.
http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/200057.pdf

Blanchard, Christopher M. and Jim Zanotti, Libya: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service (CRS), February 18, 2011.
http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/157348.pdf

 

 

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News Reports on Libya

April 3, 2017. "No, Italy is not guilty of neocolonialism in Libya", Brookings Institute.

August 18, 2016. "A house divided: Why partioning Libya might be the only way to save it", Brookings Institute. Article by Federica Saini Fasanotti.

February 10, 2016. "In Libya, No Unity Without Security", by Alice Hunt Friend and Anthony Bell, War on the Rocks.

February 4, 2016. "Obama Is Pressed to Open Military Front Against ISIS in Libya", by Eric Schmitt, The New York Times.

February 2, 2016. "John Kerry Urges Coalition to Address Growing ISIS Threat in Libya", The New York Times.

January 29, 2016. "New Order or Disorder for Libya?", Council on Foreign Relations.

January 28, 2016. "Obama Takes the Gloves Off Against ISIS at Last", by Kimberly Dozier, The Daily Beast.

January 27, 2016. "Pentagon: US Forces in Libya, Looking for 'Worthy' Partners", Voice of America. U.S. Special Forces are on the ground in Libya exploring the possibilities of working with Libyan groups to oppose the Islamic State.

January 22, 2016. "Dunford Discusses ISIL, 'Decisive Action' in Libya With French Counterpart", DoD News.

January 22, 2016. "U.S. and Allies Said to Plan a Military Action on ISIS in Libya", The New York Times. Commando raids, airstrikes, and intelligence collection could take place soon.

January 22, 2016. "LIbya's Chaos: Threat to the West", by Mohamed Chtatou, Gatestone Institute. An indepth a tracing the history of the conflict in Libya.

January 22, 2016. "New Western security plans for Libya take shape as the Islamic State threat grows", by Missy Ryan, The Washington Post.

January 22, 2016. "U.S. military urges 'decisive action' against Islamic State in Libya", Reuters.

January 22, 2016. "Looking for Moderates in All the Wrong Places", by Trevor Thrall, Real Clear Defense. Libya and the failure to learn from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

January 21, 2016. "Libya says it doesn't want British ground troops to fight Islamic State", The Telegraph. The new Libyan deputy prime minister says foreign boots on Libyan soil could offend national pride.

January 21, 2016. "Militants attack storage tanks near Libya's Ras Lanuf oil terminal". Business Insider. Suspected Islamic State militants attack storage tanks on Thursday.

January 20, 2016. "Here's What Special Operators Want to Do in Libya", Defense One. "The U.S. Special Operations Command is spending more time and attention on Libya, trying to keep the Islamic State from growing more powerful there . . . "

January 20, 2016. Libyan Militia Threatens to Detain U.S. Special Operators, SOFREP. When U.S. special operators arrived at an air base to assist an "allied" militia, the Americans were threatened and sent away. There departure was featured on the Facebook feed of the Libyan Air Force.

January 20, 2016. "Islamic State leader Baghdadi sends Iraqi commander to tighten grip on new Libya stronghold", The Telegraph.

January 18, 2016. "In Libya, US Struggles to find allies to counter ISIS", The Boston Globe.

January 7, 2016. Condemning Recent Terrorist Bombings in Libya, U.S. Department of State press statement.

December 17, 2015. Welcoming the Signing of the Libyan Political Agreement, U.S. Department of State press statement.

December 17, 2015. "Secret US mission in Libya revealed after air force posted pictures", The Guardian.

December 17, 2015. "British troops on standby as ISIS extends control in Libya", The Times. Britain is preparing to send up to 1,000 troops and special forces to Libya as the Islamic State makes land grabs to extend its caliphate into the oil-reich North African state.

December 11, 2015. "Britain moving towards military action against ISIL in Libya", The Telegraph. The government says it is extremely concerned by the rapid rise of ISIL and other extremist groups in Libya and is considering plans for intervening to tackle the threat.

November 14, 2015. "US Air Strike Hits ISIS in Libya, Chief Presumed Dead", Defense One. The air strike targeted Abu Nabil (Abu Nabil al Anbari).

October 14, 2015. "Hillary Defends Her Failed War in Libya", The Atlantic.

June 24, 2015. ISIS Loses Libyan Stronghold, Institute for the Study of War.

March 3, 2015. "The New Pirates of Libya", by Ethan Chorin, Foreign Policy. Why the rise of the radical Islamists in North Africa threatens America directly - - and how to stop it.

June 18, 2015. Libya's Escalating Civil War, Middle East Institute.

January 10, 2015. "That it should come to this", The Economist.

August 27, 2014. "Here are the key players fighting the war for Libya, all over again". The Washington Post. This article outlines the major factions fighting for control of territory and the government.

August 24, 2014. "Strife in Libya Could Presage Long Civil War", The New York Times.

 

 


Endnotes

1. See "Libya says it doesn't want British ground troops to fight Islamic State", The Telegraph. Mentions UK and US SOF, UK and Italian troops for training mission.

2. See UNSMIL press release dated January 19, 2016 congratulating Libyans on the formation of the Government of National Accord (GNA).

3. See "Libya's presidential council names new government amid divisions", Reuters.

4. Read the text of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 (17 March 2011).

5. See "ISIS comes to Libya", CNN, November 18, 2014.

6. In regards to the disunity of the HoR read "Internal spat in eastern army threaten to derail Libya piece process", U.S. News & World Report, January 22, 2016.

7. Read "Libya's New Government: Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst", RUSI.org, January 22, 2016.

 


Flag of Libya


Map - Location of Libya


Map of Libya


 

United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)

Map - Libya on African Continent


 

 

 

 

 


 

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