Failed State: Libya Speeding Toward a Breakup

Various Militias Snatching Up Large Cities as Army Struggles

We’re about three years into post-Gadhafi Libya now, and the question of how much longer Libya has as a viable state, or indeed whether it’s fair to call it a single state at all anymore, is looming larger than ever.

Libya has always been a loose confederation of cities, with people identifying primarily with the city they are from, and not the nation itself. The post-Gadhafi government has struggled with city-based militias from the start, and now seems to be crumbling outright.

Tripoli is basically lost to the Misrata militia, while what remains of the Libyan military, chiefly under the control of coup general Khalifa Hifter, is trying to take over Benghazi, but running into losses against another large militia, Ansar al-Sharia.

The new parliament is once again backing former Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni as premier, but it’s a parliament in exile, operating out of the eastern city of Tobruk, and even there only at the pleasure of another city-based militia.

The parliament, such as it is, keeps pushing Western intervention, while Gen. Hifter is getting backing from the Egyptian junta, but there is no sign either is liable to really secure control of a significant portion of the nation, and where the nation of Libya once stood, an array of city-states seem to be emerging.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of