Tuesday, May 3, 2016

GNA more concerned with control of armed forces than attacking Islamic State

The Presidential Council of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Faiez Serraj has asked both the forces of General Khalifa Haftar and those from Misrata to stop their advance towards Sirte to fight the Islamic State.

The Council said the actions should be stopped "until a joint command for the offensive is nominated." It also claimed that any infringement of the rule would be considered a violation of military law. It said that the fight against terrorism should not be used for personal gains.
The announcement is surprising given that just two days ago the president of the State Council had asked the Presidential Council for an attack on the Islamic State. Just recently, General Haftar has received a large shipment of vehicles and ammunition.
Haftar along with other troops of the Libyan National Army (LNA) from the south-east are moving towards Sirte. The three main oil ports on the oil crescent are guarded by the Petroleum Frontier Guards (PFG) headed by Ibrahim Jodhran, who supports the GNA and its National Oil Company rather than the rival NOC in the east. There are reports that Jodhran has been replaced by the Al-Thinni HoR government. Haftar may try to secure the ports while on his way to Sirte. The HoR and Haftar support the eastern-based NOC which has been attempting to illegally sell oil and not through the Tripoli-based NOC.
The mayor of Ajdabia City on the way to Sirte, Salim Jodhran said:“This military action by those forces aims at controlling the oil facilities in order to use them in the political arena.” He said that he informed speaker of the HoR Ageelah Salah that the municipality did not trust Haftar and that the municipality only took orders from the PC of the proposed GNA government.
Stratfor, the global intelligence agency, claims the two rival militias and associated governments are in a race to take back Sirte from the Islamic State, which it has held for almost two years now. Stratfor claims:The victor will secure greater bargaining power in the ongoing high-stakes negotiations to assemble a U.N.-brokered unity government, the Government of National Accord. The negotiations over the new government have attempted to square the disparate interests of federalists, Islamists and secular nationalists, among others, to establish the defeat of their common enemy, the Islamic State, as the priority. This shared goal has enabled the various groups to overlook their severe ideological and tribal divisions — at least for now.
Stratfor notes that Misrata militias held Sirte before the Islamic State drove them out. Unless they retake the city, they fear that their role in the GNA government will be reduced. Haftar sees the liberation of Sirte as a means of gaining power in the unity government. He wants to remain commander in chief of the Libyan Army or minister of defence. I think that Haftar may also be open to causing a breakup of Libya with himself as head or an important figure in a government in Cyrenaica. Stratfor notes:Misratan militants and local militias loyal to Petroleum Facilities Guard leader Ibrahim Jadhran are positioned between Sirte and Ajdabiya. They fear that on the way to Sirte, Hifter's forces will take control of some of Libya's most important oil and natural gas infrastructure, further consolidating the general's negotiating position. As is the case between Misrata and Hifter, there is mutual distrust between Jadhran and Hifter.
Jodhran may already be dismissed so that Haftar need just ensure that the ports and the PFG are loyal to the Al-Thinni government. There is not a word from UN Support Mission In Libya (UNSMIL) head Martin Kobler on all that is happening. He has said nothing so far about when and where the next meeting of the HoR will be to vote confidence in the GNA.


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