Democracies, Militaries, and Insurgencies: Islamic Fundamentalism in Libya and Chad
Written by Caitlin Stock
After the death of Muhammar Ghaddafi and the subsequent end of the Libyan Jamahiriya, Libya’s transitional government has since crumbled into a multifaceted conflict with different political groups vying for power and influence over potent oil fields. The General National Congress (GNC) took control over Libya after the death of Ghaddafi as a representative assembly. Internal fragmentation in the GNC precluded agreements on political issues and was unable to withstand several other warring factions. Several former political officials fled Tripoli (and the GNC) to Tobruk, a city on the eastern border of Libya, and established a second parliament known as the House of Representatives. The Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Khalifa Haftar, is recognized as a quasi-military unit, comprised of trained military officials alongside tribal and regional groups of soldiers. The LNA is not recognized by the GNC as a military force; instead, the GNC recognizes Haftar as an agitator and a “warlord”. In addition to the two existing governments and the LNA, Islamic fundamentalist groups loyal to ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood exist throughout the state and commit various terrorist acts and beheadings.
Several officials in the GNC are known to be sympathetic to various Islamic groups; for the past three years, combating Islamic fundamentalism became the primary goal for the House and the LNA. In 2014, Haftar and the LNA built an anti-Islamist operation, Operation Dignity, against known Islamic organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS insurgent groups. After several successes in the following years, Haftar expanded the campaign and the LNA’s power to secure Libyan oil fields and wrest power away from the GNC. Haftar sees his operation and similar initiatives “anti-terrorist” and “part of the revolution”, but critics outside the GNC see Haftar’s effort as the start of a coup-de-etat.
One of the Haftar’s goals is removing Islamic insurgent groups, garnering international support. Various supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS camp out at the Chadian/Libyan border. On Monday February 3rd, a convoy of 40 pickup trucks carrying Libyan rebels infiltrated Chad. To counter this attack, Chadian military authorities partnered with French military officials. French fighter jets were then deployed from the airbase in N’Djamena and performed low-passes over the column traveling into the country, but no airstrikes or fire was deployed.
As of Saturday, French and Chadian military officials captured the rebels traveling in the pickup column and have taken them into custody. The coalition stated that it captured more than 250 rebels with ties to the Union of Forces of Resistance (URF), a new Chadian-Libyan rebel coalition trying to topple the Chadian president Idriss Deby. The URF receives continued support from Sudan since the group’s debut in Chadian War from 2005-2010. About 100 rebels are detained after their initial capture and are awaiting further examination. The rebels that have been interviewed have stated their discontent with the Chadian president and Libyan leader Haftar as both leaders work against Islamic groups.
BBC. 2019. Chad: ‘More than 250 rebels’ captured in convoy raid. 02 09. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47185304.
Channel NewsAsia. 2019. French air strikes ‘repel incursion into Chad from Libya’. 02 05. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/french-air-strikes–repel-incursion-into-chad-from-libya–11202600.
El-Gamaty, Guma. 2016. Libya: The story of the conflict explained. 08 27. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/04/libya-story-conflict-explained-160426105007488.html.
Glenn, Cameron. 2017. Libya’s Islamists: Who They Are – And What They Want. 08 08. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.ecfr.eu/mena/mapping_libya_conflict.
Marin, Ludovic. 2019. French air strikes target convoy entering Chad from Libya. 02 04. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20190204-france-chad-air-strikes-convoy-libya.
Nako, Madjiasra. 2019. Scores of Chadian rebels held after French air strikes. 02 09. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chad-security-france/scores-of-chadian-rebels-held-after-french-air-strikes-idUSKCN1PY0C4.
NightWatch. 2019. For the Night of 4 February 2019. 02 04. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.ezsubscription.com/nnl/content/content_servlet.aspx?target=NightWatch_20190204.
Reuters. 2019. Khalifa Haftar forces strike Chadian rebels. 02 09. Accessed 02 09, 2019. http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/558780/World/Mena/Khalifa-Haftar-forces-strike-Chadian-rebels.
Stephen, Chris. 2014. War in Libya – the Guardian briefing. 08 29. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/29/-sp-briefing-war-in-libya.
Taylor, Ishaan Tharoor and Adam. 2014. Here are the key players fighting the war for Libya, all over again. 08 27. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/08/27/here-are-the-key-players-fighting-the-war-for-libya-all-over-again/?utm_term=.55d81a783662.
TheDefensePost. 2019. Haftar’s Libyan National Army says it hit Chad rebels in new airstrikes. 02 08. Accessed 02 09, 2019. https://thedefensepost.com/2019/02/08/libya-national-army-airstrikes-chad-rebels-haftar/.