Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Libya's Political Realignment: May 2016 Control Map & Timeline

This is the first of a pair of Libya map reports, with the second spotlighting the retreat of "Islamic State" forces from May to September. The second report, with a more up-to-date map, is available to members of our conflict map subscription service. 

There are newer versions of this map available. To see them, view all Libya updates.

Libya control map: Shows detailed territorial control in Libya's civil war as of May 2016, reflecting the political realignment after UN peace deal, including all major parties (Government of National Accord (GNA), Tobruk House of Representatives, General Haftar's Libyan National Army, Zintan militias, Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG); Tripoli GNC government, Libya Dawn, and Libya Shield Force; Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries and other hardline Islamist groups; and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)). Also file under: Map of Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) control in Libya. Now includes terrain and major roads. Color blind accessible.
Base map by Koen Adams of, with territorial control by Evan Centanni. All rights reserved.

(Subscribers click here to view this article in the member area)

Timeline by Djordje Djukic, with additional reporting by Evan Centanni

Drastic Political Shift
Starting soon after our last Libya control map report in March, the structure of Libya's divided control and rival governments underwent a massive realignment, with international recognition essentially switching from one side of the country to the other, and some key fighting forces switching sides as well.

Last year, the country was already divided between two rival governments, the controversial General National Congress (GNC) in the capital city of Tripoli and the more internationally-recognized House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk (with forces of the so-called "Islamic State", formerly ISIS/ISIL, holding territory in between).

In an effort to unite the two governments, a UN-backed peace deal created a new "Government of National Accord" (GNA), which last March dramatically sailed into Tripoli from Tunisia to take over the reigns. Within a few weeks, the old GNC government had yielded to GNA authority, and most of the GNC-associated Libya Dawn militias agreed to support the new government too (at least for the time being). However, the GNA failed to secure an endorsement from the legislature in Tobruk, limiting the new government's power in the east to support from the maverick Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) along the central coast.

The result is that most international recognition has shifted to the new Tripoli government, whose military is largely made up of the same forces that were loyal to the controversial GNC, while Tobruk's formerly recognized government and army are now the defiant rivals.

For the full history of the current civil war since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, including the origins of the country's competing governments, see our detailed Libya background article and timeline from August 2015.

Flag of Libya (2011-present) Country Name:  
• Libya (English)
• Lībyā (Arabic)
Official Name:  
• State of Libya (English)
Dawlat Lībyā (Arabic) 
Capital: Tripoli
Timeline of Events
The following is a detailed timeline of major political events and changes to territorial control since our previous Libya control map of March 2016.

March 16-17, 2016
The European Union agreed on sanctions against three Libyan officials - including the president of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) - who were opposed to the new UN-backed unity government, the Government of National Accord (GNA). The designated prime minister of the GNA said he expected to move to Tripoli from the neighboring country of Tunisia within days.

March 31, 2016
The dissolution of the GNC government started, with its officials, under pressure from former allies, leaving Tripoli and going back to their home cities. Members of the Presidential Council of the GNA sailed into Tripoli the same day. Subsequently, 10 cities formerly under the control of the GNC pledged their support for the GNA. Following this, GNA support continued to spread further in the west and south of the country, while in the east support for the GNA remained uncertain.

However, the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) under Ibrahim Jathran, in control of eastern oil ports including Sidra, Ras Lanuf, and Brega, did pledge its allegiance to the GNA.

April 5-6, 2016
The GNC-affiliated "National Salvation Government" in Tripoli disbanded and ceded authority to the Presidential Council. The next day, the State Supreme Council elected its president and first deputy. By this time, GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj was in control of Libya's central bank and national oil company as well.

Read More: Foreign Policy magazine tells the story of the GNA's whirlwind rise to power

April 17-19, 2016
The Tobruk-loyal "Libyan National Army" (LNA) organization captured the University of Benghazi, the Al-Hawari cement factory and two nearby cemeteries from religious hardline militias in Benghazi, as well as the Al-Quwarsha area of Benghazi's district.

April 20, 2016
Forces of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) withdrew from positions on the outskirts of Derna, cementing the control of the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC), a rival religious hardline group, over the town. The LNA also claimed to have taken control of IS’s abandoned positions.

Map of the territorial control (Assad government, Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL, rebel, SDF, and Kurdish) in the Syrian Civil War as of April 2016
Map of IS Control in Syria, April 2016
(click for free article and map)
April 27, 2016
IS ambushed a convoy reportedly consisting of GNA fighters and British and Italian soldiers. The attack reportedly left some Italian marines dead or wounded.

April 29, 2016
As of the end of April, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, the previous internationally-recognised Libyan parliament, had not yet given its support to the new GNA government in Tripoli. Major sticking points were Tripoli's disdain for LNA star general Khalifa Haftar, as well as a procedural requirement for the GNA government to present itself in person before the House (meanwhile, GNA leaders were still holed up in an old navy base in Tripoli despite the proclaimed support of many militias in the city).

Also by late April, the GNA had gained the loyalty of several important government ministries.

May 5, 2016
As GNA forces were preparing an offensive to recapture Sirte from IS forces, IS launched a pre-emptive attack. In the offensive, IS claimed to have captured several villages, including Abu Grain, Baghla, and Abu Najaym.

May 10, 2016
A military faction in the eastern city of Ajdabiya declared that it did not support the Tobruk-based LNA.

Timeline continued in subscriber article:
The Fall of Libya's "Islamic State": Sept. 2016 Control Map & Timeline

Graphic of the Libyan flag is in the public domain (source).