Last week forces of the eastern-based General Khalifa Haftar were able to take over the four main ports of the Libyan Oil Crescent, Ras Lanuf, Brega, Es Sidra, and Zuwetina. There was little resistance from the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) who had control of the ports. The PFG under its leader Ibrahim Jadhran had reached a deal with the GNA to reopen the ports. Jadhran supports the GNA. Jadhran and Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army and loyal to the rival to the GNA the government of the House of Representatives (HoR), are mortal enemies.
When Haftar seized the ports, many, including Martin Kobler UN envoy to Libya and a number of western nations thought that export of oil would be delayed. However, Hafter turned over the ports to the NOC even though he does not recognize the GNA. However, it seems that now the remaining PFG forces loyal to Jadhran have launched a counter-attack on Haftar aimed at retaking the ports.
Mohamed Ibset, spokesperson for Haftar's forces said:"The Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) launched an offensive this morning and (our forces) are fighting them in Ras Lanuf." The PFG said it had launched counterattacks on two of the oil ports. A spokesperson said: "We attacked Al-Sidra and Ras Lanuf, and Haftar's forces are trying to hit us with their warplanes." Muftah al-Muqarief, who is in charge of oil guards loyal to Haftar said the counter-attack was launched from the west by "militias backed by outlaws". He said the attacks had been repelled and the attackers were being chased, with some being captured. However, there is no independent confirmation of these reports. It may take some time before the situation becomes clear. There are reports that the PFG forces were attacked by foreign airplanes. Some reports also suggest the counter-attack was repelled.
The Libyan ambassador from the UK, Peter Millet said in a tweet that the two sides should show restraint. There had been optimism that oil exports and production were about to increase providing badly need revenue to Libya.
Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) forces, mostly militia from Misrata have captured the port in the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic State, the city of Sirte.
The remaining Islamic State fighters are now entirely surrounded within the city. Many had already escaped the city. Earlier numbers placed the numbers of IS fighters at up to 6,000 but this appears an exaggeration.
A residential area in the east of the city was also taken. The fall of Sirte would leave IS without any significant territory in Libya although it could still launch terror attacks and has some presence in Benghazi yet it would seem. Sirte was the home town of Gadaffi and there are many loyalists there.
Fighting is said to be raging around a conference center, the Islamic State headquarters. Air strikes were carried out on the center. It is reported that 11 of the militia forces were killed and 45 wounded on Friday.
Hospitals are overcrowded and in need of medical supplies and apparently planes carrying wounded to Italy have not been allowed to land. Flights to Italy and elsewhere to treat the wounded are being blocked by NATO as mentioned in this tweet: "Outrageous: UN US EU NATO applaud Misrata for battling #ISIS @ Sirte #Libya while blocking evacuation of war wounded"
Brett McGurk, Barack Obama's anti-ISIS envoy said that numbers of ISIS in Libya had probably plateaued at 5,000. There are certainly not that many left in Sirte. McGurk said:“I just don’t want to get ahead of the situation because it remains pretty fluid. But we’re encouraged by the progress they’re making. Once you have a credible force on the ground that moves against them, there is a chance that they could crack pretty quickly".
A recent tweet notes: ISIS in Sirte and their territory that a month ago extended 250km along the coast. Now ISIS is besieged in 20km-square area within #Sirte" The appended map also shows the huge shrinkage in territory controlled by ISIS since May. McGurk is behind the times. Another recent tweet indicates that clashes are ongoing on all fronts: Clashes all fronts East, West & South, heavy clashes within the city of #Sirte - suggestions city will be liberated within days/hrs. #Libya
McGurk said that the US was willing to work with General Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the rival House of Representatives (HoR) But McGurk made it clear that Haftar had to recognize the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord(GNA). Haftar has made it clear he will not do so until the HoR gives a vote of confidence in the GNA. This is supposed to take place on Monday.
There have been many meetings most without a quorum and two disrupted but without any vote. Haftar has said he will not join with GNA forces until all the militias are disbanded. That is not likely to happen any time soon as the GNA depends upon them for security. Haftar announced about three weeks ago he would liberate Sirte but has not had any clashes with them meanwhile, the Misrata militia from the west and the Petroleum Facilities Guard in the east closed in on Sirte.
This is a commentary on some parts of the report presented to the UN Security Council on June 6 by Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG).
Kobler begins by outlining the dire humanitarian situation in Libya including 6,0000 families from Sirte fleeing their homes ahead of military operations there. He claims the number of displaced persons in Libya had reached 435,000
Kobler also makes reference to the immigrant situation, claiming that in May 1,100 migrants died in the Mediterranean. On the 26 May alone 500 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast.
Although he mentions a shortage of health workers, essential medicines and supplies, he fails to note the lack of medical resources for treating those wounded in the fight against the Islamic State.
On the political front he notes that it is almost six months since the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed on December 17th in Skhirat.
His description of the event is typical puffery: "The signing was the first time that the Libyan people had dared believe again that peace and unity in Libya were attainable."
The Dialogue from which the LPA arose was meant to result in an agreement between the two rival parliaments. When neither would sign, Kobler simply gathered together all members of the Dialogue who agree to the draft agreement the UN had circulated and had them sign. None of those who signed from the two rival parliaments were authorized to do so. Details such as this never come up in UN reports.
He claims that the people of Libya welcomed the Presidency Council (PC) of the GNA to Tripoli but this he admits stands in contrast to their present sense of growing impatience and concern. The capital and other places have been plagued by a cash crisis and also frequent power outages.
The GNA has gone ahead without any formal vote of confidence in the HoR although Kobler and the GNA declared themselves up and operating from Tripoli on the basis of a letter from an alleged majority of the HoR approving the GNA in principle.
Kobler also brought together members of the dialogue whom he claims gave a green light to move to Tripoli. Now all of a sudden Kobler admits that "Libya is without a formally endorsed government". He says it has failed because some of the parties to the agreement have failed to uphold their commitments. The HoR has never agreed to the LPA in the first place so it is difficult to see how they fail to uphold their commitments.
The head of the HoR Ageela Saleh has nevertheless been sanctioned by the EU for obstructing the LPA process. He notes that the HoR has an integral role to play in Libya's democratic transition. The HoR under the terms of the LPA becomes the sole legislative body of the GNA. The GNA has been operating all along without a legislature. Somehow by hook or by crook the GNA must find a way to bring the HoR or more likely some of the members on board.
Kobler had praise for international organizations such as the Arab League for supporting the GNA. In the case of the Arab League and some of its members such as the UAE and Egypt they support Haftar as well.
Kobler ends by emphasizing six points necessary for Libya to exit from what he calls the current state of chaos. He claims: "First, that the Libyan Political Agreement, endorsed by the House of Representatives on 25 January, remains the sole legitimate framework for managing the remainder of Libya’s political transition until a permanent constitution is adopted."
Yet on January 25th this year Reuters reports: " Libya's internationally recognized parliament voted on Monday to reject a unity government proposed under a United Nations-backed plan to resolve the country's political crisis and armed conflict." Whatever, Kobler meant to say what he does say is not true.
Second, that the House of Representatives remains the institution to endorse and swear in the Government of National Accord. The HoR also needs to vote an amendment to the constitutional declaration of 2011. The GNA has long been operating without a formal vote of confidence from the HoR. The ministries have been operating as well without being sworn in. The real problem for the GNA is that the HoR is the legislature of the GNA. The GNA has been operating without a legislature.
The fifth point that Kobler makes is that the PC is the sole legitimate recipient of international security assistance in its capacity of commander in chief. This statement is certain to anger Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief, of the Libyan National Army and his supporters. Haftar loyalists want him to remain as commander in chief of the army in the new government and Section 8 of the LPA which makes the PC commander in chief to be deleted.
Sixth, averting hostilities between different security actors fighting against the Islamic state "requires an inclusive interim security arrangement, including temporary command and control arrangements for the army" However, at present there are mostly just various militia with various degrees of loyalty to the GNA.
A regular GNA army is something to be formed rather than existing. Since Kobler's statement Solid Structure has entered the IS stronghold of Sirte and the Petroleum Facilities Guard is advancing from the east as well.
While Khalifa Haftar announced weeks ago that he was marching to free Sirte, he has yet to take part in the battle for Sirte. He is busy attacking Derna with Operation Volcano and in Benghazi.
A spokesperson for the forces attacking Sirte from the east, Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) Mohammed Al-Ghasri confirms that Misrata-led forces forces from the west and Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) from the east have now seized the Harawa district to the east of Sirte.
Al-Ghasri boasted: “The battle for Sirte has been won by our forces, the die is cast, IS militants have completely collapsed and we will free the city in a matter of two days.”
The forces entered into Sirte on Wednesday capturing several military camps including Al-Jalit and Tagreft. They also took control of the Buhadi districts and the Zafaran roundabout where IS hung opponents.
It is only 5 kilometers, about three miles, to the city center. The Misrata militias from the west have now joined up with the PFG forces from the east.
A tweet also announced the takeover of the town ofHarawa:"LibyaschannelEN @LibyaschannelEN #BunyanMarsus Ops Room announces liberation of #Harawa almost exactly one year after the village was seized by #IS."
The Solid Structure forces are loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
There has been air support for some operations. Inside the city of Sirte the Solid Structure forces are advancing to take the Ougadougou Conference Hall one of the headquarters of the Islamic State. A recent tweet says: Air force bombs #ISIS targets near Ouagadougou Conference Hall as ground forces r preparing to launch a military offensive 2retake the hall.
There have been severe casualties to the Solid Structure forces. A tweet reports: "15 killed + 95 wounded Yesterday vs #daesh #misrata_hospital." There is a dire shortage of medical supplies. In one city not too far from Misrata, Bani Walid, a tweet says the hospital is virtually deserted: " Ali al-Nagrat: Bani Walid hospital is almost deserted because it lacks equipment and medicine". Another tweet has the Presidential Council (PC) of the Government of National Accord (GNA) pleading with the international community for help:"#GNA PC says int'l community has moral responsibility to provide urgent medical aid to forces fighting #IS in #Sirte."
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in a recent news release noted the progress against Daesh or the Islamic State and commended those who were fighting against terrorism in all parts of Libya "including in Benghazi and Derna".
Kobler asked for a ceasefire in Benghazi which Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan Natioal Army (LNA) ignored him.
The terrorists in Derna that Haftar is fighting with his Operation Volcano are the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists who deny they have any connection to Al Qaeda and were instrumental in driving the Islamic State out of Derna and surrounding area. Haftar has been bombing Derna for days. I enclose a photo of some of the damage. He characterizes the Council members as part of Al Qaeda.
Events have moved quickly since Kobler's news release and the Islamic State will soon hold no territory in Libya. No doubt there are many sleeper cells throughout the country who will wage terror attacks.
The Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) has yet to vote confidence in the GNA.
Although numerous meetings have been called to do so, they were either lacking a quorum, or were disrupted. No vote has been taken.
A tweet announces that a meeting for a vote will be held on Monday: "Mohamed Eljarh@Eljarh HoR session on Monday announced by Agilah Saleh in #Tobruk. Unlikely that pro-GNA HoR members would join him for the session. #Libya."
Saleh is sanctioned by the EU for actions impeding the implementation of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA). An alleged majority of the HoR have agreed to the GNA in principle. It may be that they fear if they come to Tobruk they will again not be allowed to vote.
It is not at all clear why the HoR is unable to provide security for the vote.
This sets a terrible example for the future role of the HoR as the legislature of the GNA.
Forces, mostly Misrata militia, loyal to the UN-brokered Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) have now entered into the city of Sirte, the last city stronghold of the Islamic State in Libya.
Apparently many fighters have already left the city. However, there are also unconfirmed reports that Islamic State fighters have also left the town of Harawa on the east to retreat to Sirte. This would allow the advancing Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) on the eastern front to advance quite close to Sirte.
A tweet said: "Unconfirmed news that #Isis has abandoned Harawa to defend #Sirte. Help in verifying this welcome."
Brigadier Gen. Mohammed al-Ghasri, told the Associated Press that a key bridge within the city where extremists used to hang bodies of their enemies has been seized.
The forces are only 5 kilometers or 3 miles from the center of Sirte. Al-Ghasri said that fighting on Wednesday killed five of his forces and wounded another 25.
An anonymous official said that the advancing forces had met little resistance but there were roadside bombs. There have been air strikes ahead of the advance.
An official claimed that the forces were closing in on the Ouagadougou convention center, which is one of the headquarters of the IS. They are also moving towards the port. Earlier, the forces of Solid Structure as they are called took control of the Tagrift military camp south of Sirte. They are also reported to have captured the Al-Jalet military camp and the Au Hadi roundabout which is immediately south of Sirte.
Meanwhile, the forces of Khalifa Haftar have yet to engage with those of the Islamic State even though he announced that he was going to march to liberate Sirte about three weeks ago. Instead he is busy attacking the city of Derna in what he calls Operation Volcano.
The city is defended by the Shura Council of Derna Jihadists. Haftar insists that they are Al Qaeda although the group denies they have any connections with Al Qaeda.
The Council was instrumental in clearing the Islamic State from Derna and the surrounding area. Surprisingly officials from the House of Representatives (HoR) government to whom Haftar is supposedly loyal are operating within the city. Haftar has been bombing the city and the port for days now. The UN doesn't notice apparently.
Haftar has refused to join with the central command of the GNA. He rejects the GNA and will not recognize it until it is given a vote of confidence by the HoR. However, every meeting to take a vote has lacked a quorum or has been disrupted. It is not clear when another meeting will happen.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.