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Sunday, May 1, 2016

President of Libyan State Council asks Presidency Council to liberate Sirte from islamic State

Abdulrahman Sewehli, president of the State Council, has asked the Presidency Council of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) to send forces to liberate Sirte and other places controlled by the Islamic State.

The State Council is a mainly advisory body composed of former members of the Tripoli-based Salvation government associated with the General National Congress (GNC). The president also urged the Presidency Council to request the UN Security Council to lift the weapons ban on Libya so that arms can be imported to fight the Islamic State or Daesh. The Presidency Council has nine members led by Prime Minister Faiez Serraj. Only seven of nine are at present participating in the Council. A State Council statement said that quick action was needed as the Islamic State was intending to expand its area of influence and attack oil facilities. The State Council noted that it was making its recommendation in line with clause 5 or Article 24 of the LPA to recruit a force led by professional military commanders from all over the country to capture Sirte. Clause 5 gives the State Council the power to propose policies and recommendations on combating terrorism, extremism, violence, and exclusion.
The Libyan National Army under commander-in-chief Khalifa Haftar is not likely to take part in any attacks organized by the GNA. Until the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) formally endorses the GNA, the HoR and Haftar have refused to recognize it. Commanders loyal to Haftar are unlikely to join the force recommended by Sewehli, who is opposed to Haftar. He may be planning his own raid against the Islamic State as he has just received a large shipment of vehicles and ammunition. However, his plans are not certain. He may be intending to seize control of oil facilities guarded by his opponent Ibrahim Jodhran who heads the Petroleum Facilities Guards(PFG) at three main oil export ports in the east. He could even try to defeat the jihadists who control Derna. The Islamic State has just recently been driven out from the outskirts of the city. They retreated back to Sirte.
The State Council also recommended that once Sirte and other areas controlled by the Islamic State were liberated the Presidency Council should consider formally appointing heads of military and security services in accordance with Article 8 of the LPA additional provisions. There are two articles 8. According to the one in the additional provisions Haftar lost his job back on December 17 when the Skhirat agreement was signed and the Presidential Council took on the role of commander in chief. Of course this never happened. Haftar is still commander of the only Libyan National Army that exists, the one associated with the HoR. He was appointed by PM Al-Thinni. Al-Thinni, ironically, was interim prime-minister when Haftar loyalists burned down the parliament in Tripoli as part of Operation Dignity back in May 2014. See the appended video. At the time, Haftar was accused of an attempted coup and had a warrant out for his arrest. Bad guys can become good guys over time. Other examples, are Ibrahim Jodhran, head of the PFG. He used to be a bad guy who kept oil terminals closed and tried to ship oil illegally but now supports the GNA. The same is true of Sewehli, who was threatened with sanctions before as a spoiler but is now president of the State Council.
Haftar and his supporters fear that the PC will use their power to appoint someone other than himself as head of the Libyan National Army. As the Herald notes even the over 100 members of the HoR who supported the GNA in a statement demanded that the section be deleted. There appear to be irreconcilable differences on this issue between supporters of the GNA and the HoR who support Haftar. Kobler simply ignores this fact and constantly talks as if obviously a majority of the HoR support the GNA and only the spoilers are stopping everything from going as planned with a vote of confidence in the GNA. This is totally misleading.
The Presidency Council claims to have been warned by the National Oil Company (NOC) based in Tripoli that there could be further attacks on its oil facilities. The NOC also reported a rumor that former Gaddafi loyalists were cooperating with foreign militias to disrupt the oil industry.
The LNA led by Haftar may use the new shipment of vehicles and ammunition to launch its own attack on Sirte. If successful this would gain more territory for the HoR government as Sirte and surroundings are in an area surrounded by territory under the control of the GNA. Sewehli's call for an attack by the GNA is meant to ensure that Sirte and area come under control of the GNA. There is at least one tweet indicating that there are already moves from Misrata towards Sirte. Reports that several battalions from #Misrata are moving towards #Sirte to liberate the city from #ISISEvents in Libya are trending towards increasing conflicts between the GNA in the west and the HoR together with Haftar loyalists in the east. Kobler appears unable to find any solution to the conflict but insists on forging ahead to try and strengthen the GNA. In a recent interview he makes no mention of when or where the next meeting of the HoR to vote on the GNA is to take place.

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