Transitions in Focus: Libya

Libyan foreign minister seeks US engagement in effort to root out terrorists

Amid concern that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is regrouping in Libya, Mohamed Taher Syala, the foreign minister in Libya’s internationally recognized, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), said the United States must remain committed to defeating the terrorists in his country.

More than five years after its longtime ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, was ousted and killed in an Arab Spring-inspired uprising, Libya remains mired in chaos. It has two rival governments and is awash in weapons and independent militias. ISIS has sought to exploit this chaos in the North African nation.

In the summer of 2016, the United States conducted drone strikes against ISIS targets in the coastal city of Sirte. Troops loyal to the GNA—mostly militias from the western city of Misrata—also helped shatter ISIS’ control over its stronghold in Sirte.

Syala praised the US military intervention. “Without those attacks, it would be very difficult for our forces to conquer Daesh in that area,” he said in an interview with the New Atlanticist on March 23. ISIS is also known as Daesh.
In order to end the civil war in Libya, those competing for power must meet, negotiate, and establish a path to free and fair elections early in 2018, Jonathan Winer, a former US State Department special envoy for Libya, said at the Atlantic Council on March 9.

The three factions claiming sole legitimacy and authority in Libya should “negotiate a deal… come together for the good of the country, create an interim government, and have elections in 2018,” said Winer. Of international allies and partners invested in the region, he said, “everybody pretty much sees it the same way. That’s what needs to happen.”
The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East hosted a panel discussion on March 9, 2017 with Ms. Nebras Attia, human rights activist; Dr. Federica Saini Fasanotti, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Ms. Azza Maghur, senior lawyer at Maghur & Partners; Dr. Jason Pack, executive director of the US-Libya Business Association; and Amb.Jonathan Winer, former US special envoy for Libya at the US Department of State. Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Dr. Karim Mezran moderated the discussion and Hariri Center Director Amb. Frederic Hof gave opening remarks.