Libya: This Could End Very Badly


November 15, 2014: Despite the continued fighting in the east and attacks on some oil fields, oil shipments have continued. There have been some interruptions recently, but the national oil company has managed to cope and is still on schedule to get oil shipments up to a million barrels a day by the end of the year. That goal is threated by undisciplined factions technically allied with the Tripoli government who continue to fight over control of oil facilities even though this is counterproductive (these factions have no way to selling any oil they seize). Oil shipments peaked at 800,000 barrels a day in September but have since dropped to 500,000 a day. Pre-2011 shipments were three time that.

The battle for Benghazi continues. For over a month there has been heavy fighting as some Islamic terror groups refuse to leave the city and fight to the death. The pro-government forces of general Hiftar are using artillery, air power and armored vehicles to methodically kill the remaining Islamic terrorists in the city. A month of this sort of thing has created several thousand casualties, including over 400 dead. One the major side effects of all this fighting was the disruption of the normal activities in the city. As the largest city in Eastern Libya, Benghazi contained essential administrative and logistical (warehouses with key items like medical supplies) operations. The disruption caused by the fighting created shortages of medical supplies and interrupted administrative support for many oil facilities in the east. Everyone concerned had to scramble to make alternate arrangements.

In the southeast the army has another problem with the growing number of Islamic terrorist camps being set up in southwest Libya (where the borders of Libya, Algeria and Niger meet). Algeria and Niger are hard pressed to prevent all illegal crossings. As many Islamic terrorists are caught doing so, many more make it through. Malian Islamic terrorists from bases in southern Libya are now regularly moving south to carry out operations in northern Mali. All this is possible because of the Libyan civil war. That conflict is mainly up north along the coast and no one bothers with Islamic terrorists who only kill across the border in Mali. There is a similar problem in Afghanistan with Islamic terrorists operations from several sanctuary areas in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. French and American intelligence know a lot about all the illegal activity in southern Libya. UAVs and satellites reveal details of Islamic terrorist camps and convoys sneaking across the southern borders. Local spies and informants are used to obtain more detailed information and from that it is known that most of the armed men in the south are more intent on making money (usually smuggling guns, drugs or people) than Islamic terrorism. The big problem in southern Libya is that there is no law, aside from what little local tribal elders will hand out concerning tribal matters. The Libyan government has some security forces down there, but they are largely confined to the few towns in the desert area. The Tobruk government says it will deal with the lawless south as soon as it deals with a rival Islamic terrorist backed government in Tripoli.

Libya continues to come apart as a nation. The Tripoli and Tobruk governments have agreed to not interfere with oil operations, but the Tripoli government does not control all the Islamic terrorist groups that are technically under its command. Despite that there is a general understanding that the oil income, which the Tobruk government largely controls, buys essentials (like food) that will continue to be distributed to all Libyans. So far that seems to be working. This is what always mattered most because the oil money pays for everything. The cash from oil sales is going into the Central Bank, which tends to answer to the Tobruk parliament because that is the one with international recognition and that provides access to the international banking system. The various factions are pressuring the Central Bank and courts to favor them but it is the international community that controls the ability of Libya to buy essential (most of the food and everything else) needed to keep Libyans alive recognizes the Tobruck officials. That internationally recognized government set up shop in the small port city of Tobruk (1,600 kilometers east of Tripoli) after encountering hostility from militias loyal to the pre-June government. Many other government offices moved as well and are finding space where they can. The rebel governments in Tripoli and the Tobruk are fighting over who controls more than $100 billion held by the Central Bank. A lot of that cash is overseas and since Tobruk has international and UN support the Tripoli rebels are having a hard time maintaining control of any oil income. If the Tripoli government tries to sell oil on the black market they will have most of the world going after them with bank account shutdowns and seizure of the tankers they use (either in port or on the high seas). In the end, it’s the oil money that will bring peace, or abject poverty for all. The government is running out of cash and credit. Another year or two of this and life gets very miserable for Libyans. The UN speaks of Libya has sliding into a state of anarchy. No one is willing to intervene militarily and the UN has constant problems with gangsters and Islamic terrorists attacking air efforts. This could end very badly.

The Tripoli government has support from Turkey, Sudan and Qatar while the Tobruk government has most of the world recognizing it, along with most of the Islamic world. This is especially true with neighboring Egypt and most of the Arab oil states. Egypt has proclaimed that it will not intervene militarily. While that is the official position Egypt is apparently providing substantial, and secret, support to the Hiftar forces. This comes in the form of air support, weapons and other military supplies and even some Egyptian special operations troops. A major concern of the Egyptians is the movement of weapons and Islamic terrorists into Egypt and there are a lot more Egyptian troops and police on the Libyan border in the past few months. What the Egyptians need is pro-Egypt forces controlling the Libyan side of the frontier. Thus the support for the Hiftar coalition, which arose in Eastern Libya as a coalition of Libyan Army units, tribal militias and anti-Islamic terrorist groups. Hiftar is now officially part of the Tobruk government armed forces.

Most Libyans are fed up with the continuing violence. The 2011 rebellion against Kadaffi left over 30,000 dead but the infighting since then has killed nearly as many. Most major factions agree on peace but Islamic terrorist groups in Tripoli and Benghazi, aided by tribal factions that want more power and money, continue to fight.

November 14, 2014: Hiftar forces in Benghazi handed over nine Turks they had arrested in Benghazi two weeks ago. The Hiftar forces determined that the Turks were innocent of any crimes and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Tobruk government was in the process of turning the Turks over to the Turkish government via the UN.

November 13, 2014: In Tripoli two car bombs went off near Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies. There were apparently no casualties. The embassies were boarded up and closed earlier this year.

November 12, 2014: In Tobruk two car bombs went off near the Oil Institute, killing three and wounding more than twenty. Another large explosion occurred at an air base near the eastern city of Bayda (controlled by the Tobruk government). This has disrupted commercial flights that now operate from that air base.

November 9, 2014: In the east (Shahat) a bomb went off in the town near where the UN was hosting talks with officials from the Tobruk government. There were no injuries. In the west (Tripoli) a group of gunmen attacked a bank and stole $1.3 million.

November 6, 2014: In Tripoli the constitutional court declared invalid the June 25th vote that elected the parliament that currently operates in Tobruk. The Tobruk government rejected this and accused the judges of succumbing to pressure from Islamic terrorist militias that control Tripoli and often use intimidation to get their way.

November 5, 2014: Britain has begun flying home nearly 300 Libyan officer trainees before their 24 week training was completed. Five of the Libyans did not leave as they are being held on rape charges. Three of these Libyans are charged with raping women and two of raping a man. The Libyans had arrived in June and within a month locals were complaining of Libyans coming into nearby communities and behaving badly. This was not supposed to happen as the Libyans were selected to receive combat and leadership training so they could better train and command troops back in Libya. British authorities were surprised by the bad behavior and responded by ordering the Libyans restricted to the 80 hectare (200 acre) base where they lived and trained. In August this led to a mutiny among some of the Libyans after British officers in charge of the training put three of the trainees under guard after police picked them up for being off base without permission. Then twenty other trainees went and threatened the British soldier guarding the three Libyan trainees. The British guard let the three go free rather than risk violence. Senior officers were uncertain about how to handle this insubordination. The situation went downhill from there. The Libyans were not only undisciplined but also unreliable. They would agree to certain conditions (as in how they behaved towards civilians on and off the base, especially women) and then ignore those agreements. When confronted they would plead ignorance of British customs and refused to accept responsibility. The Libyans also constantly fought among themselves. Although depicting themselves as devout Moslems many of them would go to the village, get drunk and commit crimes. Some blamed the British for making alcohol too easy to obtain. The British tried to cope with all this by stationing hundreds of armed soldiers in nearby communities and on the base to prevent the Libyans from getting out of hand. This did not work either. At least twenty of the Libyans tried to apply for political asylum. This was denied after the rape incidents in late October and the decision was made to send all the Libyans home. The five in jail will face trial early next year. Not all the trainees misbehaved and some of them were hastily given a graduation ceremony even though the training was a few weeks short of completion. This group of Libyans, selected from many pro-government factions, gave Britons an up-close exposure to the kind of thinking and behavior that is tearing Libya apart.

November 3, 2014: In Benghazi an RPG fired from a high rise building (apparently by an Islamic terrorist) hit a ship in the government controlled port area and caused a fire on board.                                                      

November 1, 2014:  The pro-government Labraq airport east of Benghazi has been temporarily closed until security forces can shut down the groups who have been firing rockets into the airport area.

The Hiftar forces also say they have proof that Qatar was sending weapons and military equipment to Islamic terrorist groups in Libya. The proof comes in the form of an aircraft from Qatar that landed in an airport controlled by Hiftar forces and was seized and searched.         

October 31, 2014: Pro-government forces claim to control 80 percent of Benghazi but the remaining Islamic terrorists are fighting to the death and will require another few weeks of effort to clear out. Meanwhile many of the Islamic terrorists who quickly got out of the city when the offensive began over a month ago have set up operations outside the city and throughout eastern Libya. These groups will have to be taken down one at a time.

October 25, 2014: Libya has asked for foreign assistance in destroying its remaining stockpile of raw materials for making nerve gas. Although facilities for the destruction of this stuff have been built in Libya and Libyans trained to do it, the chaos in Libya since the Kaddafi government was overthrown in 2011 have prevented the work from being done. So the Libyans are asking for the 850 tons of chemicals to be shipped out and destroyed overseas as was recently done with a similar Syrian stockpile.

October 24, 2014: In the east (Benghazi) pro-government forces seized the largest Islamic terrorist base in the city.





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