The Rendon Group Snapshot Report – 15 February 2016

by TRG Alerts Admin on February 22, 2016

The Rendon Group

(15FEB16)

Each week The Rendon Group’s media analysts will focus on a different continent and a different issue affecting that continent. As always, we remain available to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information upon request. For more information regarding The Rendon Group’s products and services, please contact us at Alert@Rendon.com or +1-202-745-4900.

Libya: International Community Pushes for Unity Government as ISIS Gains Ground

Libya

ISIS fighters attacked a Libyan oil terminal at Es Sider in January (Reuters)

This week’s snapshot focuses on the increasing presence of ISIS in Libya and reactions of the international community. Internally, the Libyan government has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of Qadafi. According to Western intelligence, the Islamic State’s presence has quietly grown into a sizable bastion of resistance numbering anywhere from 3,000-6,000 fighters. In response, defense leaders are considering expanding their campaign against the Islamic State to North Africa. ISIS fighters are already fleeing to the Sahel in anticipation of Western airstrikes.  Meanwhile, the internationally recognized parliament sequestered in eastern Tobruk rejected a UN brokered deal to establish a unified government.

News summary of events during the week of 08FEB16 – 14FEB16

  • 08FEB: As Islamic State forces lose ground in Iraq and Syria, fighters loyal to the group have seized territory in oil-rich Libya, levying taxes at gunpoint and creating sanctuaries to launch possible attacks in North Africa and Europe. (LAT)
  • 08FEB: Libya’s air force chief of staff said a fighter jet was shot down while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants. (AP)
  • 08FEB: US President Barack Obama and Italian President Sergio Mattarella met at the White House and discussed efforts to work together to combat ISIS in Libya. (Reuters)
  • 09FEB: Nigeria’s intelligence agency said it had arrested a recruiter for ISIS, as well as seven alleged members of the Boko Haram offshoot Ansaru, who were preparing to travel to Libya. (AFP)
  • 09FEB: Commander of US Special Forces Command Africa, General Donald Boldu, said that African states must brace for a long-term fight against jihadist organizations, which are developing new tactics, recruiting more fighters and learning from each other. (AFP)
  • 10FEB: Belgium disclosed that the first Belgian citizen suspected of planning to join the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Libya was arrested last autumn in Sudan. (EFE)
  • 10FEB: Efforts to hammer out a Libyan unity government are stumbling over the defense portfolio as the internationally recognized parliament set a new deadline for a line-up. (AFP)
  • 11FEB: Intelligence sources said that groups of ISIS fighters are quitting their bases in Libya fearing Western air strikes and heading south, posing a new threat to countries in Africa’s Sahel region including Niger and Chad. (Reuters)
  • 11FEB: US SECDEF Carter said that NATO is considering joining the US-led coalition fighting ISIS jihadists. (AFP)
  • 12FEB: Tunisia said that it was asking its regional authorities to work on a plan to cope with the fallout of a possible foreign military intervention in neighboring war-torn Libya. (AFP)
  • 12FEB: Libya’s air force chief of staff said a fighter jet was shot down while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants, the third jet to be downed in nearly 40 days. (AP)
  • 13FEB: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that there is “no time to lose” to put in place a unity government in Libya, as ISIS is rapidly expanding its presence. (AFP)
  • 14FEB: Algeria and Tunisia stressed their support for the political process in Libya and rejection of any military intervention to settle the country’s ongoing crisis. (XIN)
  • 14FEB: Libya’s presidential council, which was formed under the UN-sponsored peace agreement, will name the new government as dictated by the House of Representatives. (XIN)
  • 14FEB: Libya’s Presidential Council named a revised line-up for a unity government under a United Nations-backed plan aimed at ending the conflict in the North African state. (Reuters)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about developments in Libya

  • @reportingLibya – Chris Stephen, Correspondent for the Guardian
  • @MsJulieLenarz – Julie Lenarz, Executive Director of the Human Security Centre
  • @NadiaR_LY – Nadia Ramadan, Libyan reporter and market researcher
  • @Eljarh – Mohamed Eljarh, Non-resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council
  • @KoblerSRSG – Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the spread of IS in Libya and the country’s instability

Chris Chivvas, Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center and Senior Political Scientist at RAND

“ISIS’s expansion in Libya is a threat to the security of Libyans, to the region and to Europe. It is not surprising, therefore, that those European allies most directly threatened by ISIS’s deepening roots in Libya — Italy and France — have been in the lead in discussing military options for intervention.”

  • ‘The Three Challenges of Countering ISIS in Libya,’ RAND, 13FEB16

Frederic Wehrey, Senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“In recent weeks, a succession of U.S. and European officials have warned that military operations to stop the creeping advance of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the shattered North African state of Libya are imminent. Since the summer of 2014, ISIS has exploited a governance vacuum and a factional civil war in Libya to expand what was once just a toehold into a foothold. It has clashed with, and in some areas displaced, older jihadist groups affiliated with al Qaeda. It has used Libya’s lawlessness to attract foreign recruits, conduct training, and plot operations abroad. ISIS now controls the central coastal city of Sirte and is attacking the nearby petroleum facilities to prevent much-needed revenue from reaching Libya’s central bank. And perhaps most worrisome, U.S. officials recently stated that ISIS has sent hundreds of fighters from Iraq and Syria to Libya in a calculated fallback strategy; the total number ISIS fighters in Libya is estimated between 3,000 and 6,500.”

David Mack, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs (1990-1993) and US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (1986-1989)

“If Libyans need to form internal partnerships, the international community has learned that it needs to partner with Libya. Initial Libyan claims that they could govern the vast country with limited outside involvement in building security institutions contributed to over optimism. That Libyans could form cabinets and ministries covered up the fact that they were not actually moving beyond the theoretical goals of governance. For example, the new Libyan government was unable to disarm militias and absorb their members into institutions which, under Qaddafi, had existed for limited purposes of protecting regime security, rather than national security.”

  • ‘Libyan Unity Government Efforts Need International Support,’ MEI, 25JAN16

Mary Fitzgerald, Journalist and Author of The Libyan Revolution and Its Aftermath

“The agreement signed in December is fragile; it does not have the endorsement of key actors and constituencies inside Libya. Tellingly, the presidency council, which is the first layer of what is hoped to be the unity government, up to now has been meeting in Tunis. It has not been able to sit in Tripoli, because a number of militias there oppose the agreement.”

Nathaniel Barr, Research Manager at Valens Global

“The situation in Libya grows much more grave by the day. A large part of that is the Islamic State redirecting foreign fighters, specifically foreign fighters from the Sahel, North Africa and parts of east Africa as well to Libya rather than Syria and Iraq. This is a long term approach. Sirte could be the third capital of the Islamic State after Raqqa and Mosul.”

  • ‘Fewer Fighters in Iraq/Syria as IS Focuses on ‘Third Capital’’, Voice of America, 04FEB16

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to developments in Libya

  1. Militants shoot down Libyan fighter jet

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 08 February 2016

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s air force chief of staff says a fighter jet was shot down while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants.

Brig. Gen. Saqr al-Jaroushi told The Associated Press that a Libyan MIG32 was striking the positions of Islamic State militants and other militias in the eastern town of Derna when it came under fire by anti-aircraft guns on Monday. He says the pilot ejected and landed safely.

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  1. Libya unity govt bid hits snag over defence portfolio

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 10 February 2016

Tripoli, Feb 10, 2016 (AFP) – Efforts to hammer out a Libyan unity government are stumbling over the defence portfolio, an official said Wednesday, as the internationally recognised parliament set a new deadline for a line-up.

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival administrations and armed groups fighting for control of the oil-rich country.

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  1. Islamic State fighters head south in Libya, threatening Sahel

Media: Reuters

Byline: Emma Farge

Date: 11 February 2016

DAKAR (Reuters) – Groups of Islamic State fighters are quitting their bases in Libya fearing Western air strikes and heading south, posing a new threat to countries in Africa’s Sahel region including Niger and Chad, officials and intelligence sources said.

The ultra-hardline movement that has seized large areas of Syria and neighboring Iraq has also amassed thousands of fighters along a coastal strip in Libya, where it has taken the city of Sirte and attacked oil infrastructure.

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  1. Militants shoot down Libyan fighter jet

Media: Associated Press

Byline: N/A

Date: 12 February 2016

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s air force chief of staff says a fighter jet was shot down while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants, the third jet to be downed in nearly 40 days.

Brig. Gen. Saqr al-Jaroushi told The Associated Press that a Libyan MIG32 came under fire by militants’ anti-aircraft guns in the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday. He says the pilot ejected and landed safely. The pilot has been rescued before in a similar incident on Jan. 4.

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  1. Tunisia prepares for impact of possible intervention in Libya

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Byline: N/A

Date: 12 February 2016

Tunis, Feb 12, 2016 (AFP) – Tunisia said Friday that it was asking its regional authorities to work on a plan to cope with the fallout of a possible foreign military intervention in neighbouring war-torn Libya.

In 2011, hundreds of thousands of people fled from Libya to Tunisia — a country of around 11 million — to escape fighting that led to the fall of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

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