ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) is taking advantage of the fact that most Libyan militias now mainly operate as local defense forces and don’t really want to fight. This means the greatly outnumbered ISIL forces don’t have to worry too much about facing a larger force in battle. On the plus side this provides an additional incentive for the two rival governments to unite. The UN appears to have used this and many other pressing issues (like running out of oil money and subsequent shortages of everything) to get the two governments to sign a peace and unification deal by the end of the year. Meanwhile ISIL is making the most of the current situation by expanding its control of Sirte and trying to expand east into territory controlled by the Tobruk government. This push is facing resistance, including air strikes by the handful of Libyan Air Force warplanes the Tobruk government has operational. ISIL is currently trying to reach the oil export port of Ajdabiya. There are already some ISIL forces fighting in Ajdabiya but reinforcements are needed but the coast road between Ajdabiya and Sirte has lots of hostile gunmen blocking it. In fact the fighting throughout Libya is fairly low key, causing fewer than a thousand casualties (dead and wounded) a month. People are pretty much fed up with all the fighting since 2011.
The small port city of Tobruk is 1,600 kilometers east of Tripoli and 460 kilometers east of Benghazi. Tobruk is the capital of the UN recognized Tobruk government (which won the last elections). Tripoli is near the Tunisian border and the capital of the Tripoli government (which is more Islamic and does not recognize the last elections). Benghazi is 610 kilometers west of the Egyptian border and the traditional “capital” of eastern Libya. The coastal city of Sirte is former dictator Kaddafi’s hometown. Sirte has a peacetime population of 100,000 and is 433 kilometers east of Tripoli and 570 kilometers west of Benghazi. Derna is 200 kilometers east of Benghazi and is a little larger than Sirte and has long been a commercial center. Benghazi has some Islamic terrorist presence but has even more troops and militias working for the Tobruk government.
ISIL in Libya is getting more reinforcements from Syria and Iraq with the intention of making Sirte a backup capital in case Raqqa (in eastern Syria) is captured. In Libya ISIL attracts the more fanatic men from other militias and has concentrated this evil in a few places (Sirte, Derna, Ajdabiya and Benghazi) and everywhere ISIL is under attack by local militias. ISIL is facing the most opposition in Benghazi where the more effective forces of the Tobruk government quickly go after any ISIL activity. In Derna ISIL has been largely chased out but is still on the outskirts trying to fight its way back in. In Sirte the local militias, some of them rival Islamic terrorists, are less effective defending against ISIL. Thus in Sirte ISIL is able to use its terror tactics (public executions and beatings) for force civilians to submit to ISIL rule. Largely because of the ISIL terror there has been a record (over 500,000) of civilians fleeing their homes this year. ISIL has attracted the attention of UN investigators who are now documenting the growing number of war crimes (executions, torture, mass-murder) committed in Libya. These documented reports makes it more difficult for many independent minded militias to ignore the ISIL threat just because ISIL has not showed up in their neighborhood yet.
ISIL is believed to have as many as 5,000 people in Sirte and there are even rumors that ISIL supreme leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has fled to Sirte after being wounded in Syria during an October air strike and fearing that the air strikes or commandos would soon hit him again. This rumor is dubious as it comes via Iran, which believes that Turkey actively (but secretly) assists ISIL which, as many Moslems believe, is the invention of America and Israel.
Egypt continues its tight border controls with Libya. Mainly Egypt wants to keep weapons and Islamic terrorists from entering Egypt and stop illegal migrants (some of them new recruits for ISIL in Libya) from crossing into Libya. Egypt is currently stopping over 3,000 of these illegals a month but people smugglers can still get a lot of them into Libya using the fact that 1,100 kilometer long border largely runs through thinly populated desert. The desert route is more expensive and many illegals cannot afford it. Egypt is also calling for international action to deal with the Islamic terrorist threat in Libya. The problem with this is that no one wants to send troops into or a lot of warplanes over Libya.
Libya is a threat mainly because there no law enforcement and Islamic terrorist groups can easily set up shop there. Many have, but they need cash because there is little left to loot in Libya. In the grand scheme of things Libya is the ninth most active site of Islamic terrorism. In 2015 Iraq and Afghanistan are first and second most violent with Nigeria third while Pakistan and Syria are fourth and fifth. The other most terrorized nations in Africa were Somalia at eighth place.
December 13, 2015: Another round of peace talks (in Italy) concluded with the Tripoli and Tobruk governments agreeing to a unification and peace deal that is to be signed on the 16th. This comes after 14 months of negotiations. All the major donor nations (Western and Arab) backed the deal. This might still fall apart because of the feuding Tripoli factions or widespread resistance by many of the factions loyal to either government. One of the key factors in this peace deal is the agreement of Arab Gulf States. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has always backed the more secular Libyan rebels and recognizes (along with Egypt and the UN) the Tobruk government. Qatar along with Turkey and Sudan always backed more Islamic rebel groups and continues to support the Tripoli government. Qatar, Turkey and Sudan have long believed that you can coexist with Islamic conservatives. That concept has become less viable as it becomes apparent that the ancient tradition of Islamic conservatives eventually evolving into Islamic terrorists was still operational. This produced al Qaeda and its evil spawn ISIL. Many Arabs deal with this by insisting that al Qaeda and ISIL are both creations of the United States and Israel. There is no evidence for this but to many Moslems it feels good.
December 10, 2015: Tunisia reopened its Libyan border, closed two weeks earlier because it terrorist threats.
A column of ISIL pickups rolled into the coastal town of Sabratha, which is only 66 kilometers west of Tripoli and about the same size as Sirte. This time the new ISIL forces appeared to be preparing to expand into this city. ISIL has claimed control of Sabratha before, as recently as September. In fact ISIL has long controlled parts of Sabratha and the reality is that no one has controlled all of Sabratha since 2011.
December 7, 2015: The U.S. confirmed that a November air strike outside Derna had killed ISIL leader for Libya (Abu Nabil). The attack was made by an American F-15E aircraft delivering a smart bomb. ISIL later claimed that Abu Nabil was still alive but offered no proof. Abu Nabil was believed to be a key factor in setting up and running ISIL operations in Libya. Abu Nabil is an Iraqi who belonged to al Qaeda in Iraq 2004-2010 before joining in the formation of ISIL.
The UN ruled that 16 unarmed armored vehicles (eight MRAPs, eight smaller vehicles) on a ship seized by Greece in July were not in violation of the arms embargo and could be delivered to the Tobruk government in Libya.
December 5, 2015: Tunisia banned all Libyan aircraft from the largest airport in the country and only allowed Libyan airliners and transports to land at a smaller airport that was easier for security forces to tightly control. This was done in response to intelligence reports that Libya based Islamic terrorists may be planning an attack via an airport.
November 25, 2015: In response to yesterday’s terror attack Tunisia closed its Libyan border crossings for two weeks because it was likely the attackers came from Libya.
November 24, 2015: Outside Tripoli unidentified attackers used a car bomb near a checkpoint to kill six and wound 14 civilians.
In neighboring Tunisia an Islamic terrorist roadside bomb hit a bus carrying presidential guards and killed twelve.