If ISIS Loses Libyan City, Western-Backed Govt May Lose Too

Officials Fret as Misrata Militia Makes Inroads in Sirte

The fight over ISIS’ main city in Libya, Sirte, has been watched by the US and other Western nations with great interest. With several nations already having some ground troops there, and openly talking up a war to back the UN-backed “unity” government, fighting ISIS has been the main excuse for such intervention.

ISIS isn’t doing so well lately, however, as it gets hit by faction after faction, all trying to get the extremely valuable city of Sirte, an important oil hub. That loss could hurt the efforts by the US, Italy, and others to sell the idea of invading Libya to fight ISIS, and more importantly, that loss could come to someone other than the Western-backed factions.

There are three extent governments in Libya. The UN-backed “unity” government, whose military force is basically just the Petroleum Facilities Guards, failed in their Sirte push, and the other UN-backed government, the Tobruk parliament, is focusing on fighting further east. The Misrata militia is the one that seems to be most likely to take Sirte at present.

That militia, an Islamist-leaning group that was a huge player in the revolution against Gadhafi before the NATO-imposed regime change, is affiliated with the third government, the Tripoli parliament, and the fall of Sirte to them could give that group a real shot in the arm.

Though it’s the only government that’s not UN-backed, the Tripoli parliament has been comparatively successful in holding its own territory. That level of competence is rare indeed in Libya, and if they gain Sirte, they’ll likely gain a lot of followers on the idea that they’re the one faction that’s accomplishing anything.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.