Divisions within Libya are allowing ISIS militants to regroup and operate close to their former strong hold of Sirte, according to multiple reports. The only way the organization will be effectively tackled in the country is if there is a unified government, according to one global policy expert.
Professor Alan J. Kuperman of the University of Texas said the U.S.-facilitated campaign against ISIS in Sirte was never going to destroy the group, but merely "scatter" its members. Kuperman told Maghreb News Wire he is on record as saying "the only way to really eliminate ISIS was first to get a unified Libyan government, then a unified military, and then go after any non-government armed units."
"But we still don’t have the first pre-requisite," said Kuperman, chair of the graduate studies committee of the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Foreign Affairs' Global Studies program. "Libya still has three competing governments, which even combined don’t control most of Libya."
The professor cautioned he does not have a fine-grained knowledge of what is happening on the ground in recent weeks. Reports out of Libya suggest ISIS militants are operating with impunity close to Sirte, their stronghold until when they were forced out last December by forces loyal to U.N.-recognized Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj. The months-long operation was backed by U.S. airstrikes.
Bloomberg reported the group is setting up checkpoints in the area. It is “dangerously active” on the western fringes of the main oil-producing region, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers, Ibrahim Mlitan, in charge of security in Sirte, told Bloomberg.
Militants linked to ISIS also are accused of beheading 11 people, two civilians and nine soldiers of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the eastern part of the country.
Divisions between Haftar and al Serraj are being blamed, at least in part, on the resurgence of ISIS. The London Times reported the group has some 1,000 fighters in the country.