The rapid gains of Libya's Government of National Accord have pushed rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar's forces out of large swathes of western Libya, further shifting the balance of this geostrategic competition.
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Libya's civil war has become an increasingly competitive geostrategic struggle. A UN-brokered settlement supported by non-aligned states is the most viable means for a stable de-escalation, enabling Libya to regain its sovereignty.
The absence of state administration, both during the colonial period and since independence, defines this region. But when limited administration has existed, whether from the formal state or from various armed groups that operate there, it has been marked by continued competition over natural resources and land use between traditional chiefs, cross border traders, and rebel leaders. Inhabitants themselves have also played various roles in civil and proxy wars here. While a large economic development project failed to bring much needed assistance to the region, the recent discovery of gold has led both to conflicts and to newfound wealth.
Libya has been carved into multiple tribal fiefdoms whose economies depend on internal and external flows of income, licit and illicit. The political rise of the previously marginalized Toubou by leveraging their control of the smuggling economy, for example, reveals the many ways local conflict dynamics influence and are influenced by external forces including organized crime. It also exposes the resulting disincentive the various parties have to rebuild a unified nation. Identifying and addressing the many layers of internal and external involvement in Libya’s fractionalization will help transition the “patchwork state” to a central state.
Internal and external actors in Libya have pushed varied, divergent agendas, and the country has been unable to form a unified political system. Criminal and violent extremist groups have flourished and begun to monopolize black market activities. If their economic control hardens, it may persist beyond the eventual formation of a government and make a Libyan government more difficult to finance and stabilize in the long run.
The fall of Gaddafi in Libya facilitated a significant increase in smuggling and trafficking throughout the Trans-Sahara region. This includes the transport of drugs, counterfeits and contraband, weapons, and migrants. Terrorist and militant groups have become increasingly involved in these networks as a means to fund their operations. The increase in illicit activities has been... Continue Reading
Rising violence by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel is straining intercommunal tensions, threatening the foundations of social cohesion in the region.
The growing sophistication of Russia’s disinformation campaigns in Africa demand greater vigilance from tech companies, internet watchdog groups, and governments.
Given its fragile public health systems and close ties to China, Africa is vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus, highlighting the continent’s centrality to global health security.
Militant Islamist groups in Africa set a record pace of activity in 2019, reflecting a doubling of militant Islamist activity from 2013. Expanded activity in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin underscores diversification of threat from Somalia.
Reversing the escalating violence of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel will require an enhanced security presence coupled with more sustained outreach to local communities.
(This article originally appeared as a chapter in "Russia Strategic Intentions White Paper," Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) publication series, NSI, May 2019.)
Russia has significantly expanded its engagements in Africa in recent years. These engagements often take the form of propping up embattled and isolated autocratic leaders of countries that are rich in natural resources. The United States can draw a distinction with Russia’s destabilizing role by pursuing a positive engagement strategy in Africa. The United States must avoid the Cold War trap of competing with Russia for the affections of corrupt, autocratic leaders in Africa, however, as such a policy would be disastrous for Africa while not advancing US interests.