Libya’s chaos continues to feed extremist threat

A picture taken on December 25, 2018 shows security officers at the scene of an attack outside the Libyan foreign ministry headquarters in the capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2018

Libya’s chaos continues to feed extremist threat

  • The last attack claimed by Daesh targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings
  • Daesh has “benefited from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime falling in 2011

TRIPOLI: Two years after the Daesh group lost the Libyan city of Sirte — its last stronghold in the country — the extremists continues to launch attacks, including in the heart of the capital, profiting from government weakness and general chaos.
The last attack claimed by Daesh targeted Tripoli’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, killing three and causing major damage to one of the capital’s supposedly most secure buildings.
It followed two similar attacks, one in September against the headquarters of the national oil company that killed two and another that hit the electoral commission in Tripoli in May, when 14 were slain.
“Daesh has proved that it is capable of maneuvering and of hitting strongly, two years after the loss of its stronghold in Sirte,” said Libyan political analyst Jalal Al-Fitouri.
Its capabilities persist despite “the hunting down (of its fighters) in the Libyan desert by Libyan armed groups and the US military, which has launched numerous strikes against Daesh in the south,” he said.
Daesh has “benefited from divisions” in the aftermath of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime falling in 2011, Fitouri noted.
Libya is divided between several rival entities, chief among them an internationally-recognized Government of National Accord led by Fayez Al-Sarraj in Tripoli and a parallel administration in the east loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.
The political chaos and insecurity benefits jihadist groups, which have carried out numerous attacks in recent years, including more than 20 in 2018 against institutions linked to the GNA and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.
“In the absence of a monopoly on the use of force in the country, Daesh has been able to consolidate,” said Mohammed Al-Agouri, a professor at Benghazi university in eastern Libya.
“It targets Haftar’s and Sarraj’s forces at the same time — as well as symbolic sites — in order to say ‘We are still here!’ and to recruit new foreign and local sympathizers,” he said.
“If the country’s authorities do not unite... a loss of control (over the situation) could come at any moment,” Agouri warned.
The GNA has sought to improve security in the capital in order to convince Western nations to re-open embassies, which have been shuttered since 2014 due to violence.
But Tuesday’s attack once again exposed the extreme weakness of the GNA, which has repeatedly failed to impose its authority over militias in the capital since it came into being in 2016, despite promising security sector reforms guided by the UN.
These reforms — announced after deadly clashes in September between rival groups in and around Tripoli — seek to reduce the influence of militias whose tentacles extend throughout the capital and its state institutions.
Tuesday’s attack against the foreign ministry risks extinguishing the GNA’s hopes.
“The security situation appears to be good, but in reality it is not,” GNA interior minister Fathi Bash Agha admitted to reporters several hours after the attack.
He recognized that the promised reforms have not been implemented.
He also implicitly accused some armed groups of not obeying orders, and acknowledged the GNA’s weakness in the face of supposedly loyal militias.
“The security chaos that persists creates fertile ground for Daesh,” said Agha.
He spoke of his frustration over the lack of resources available to his ministry, including arms.
The GNA on Tuesday renewed a call for a UN arms embargo imposed on the country since 2011 to be eased, “in order to bolster the security situation and fight terrorism.”
But analysts are dubious about this logic.
“The international community will not allow Libya to import arms, because the government is weak in dealing with the militias,” said Fayrouz Al-Dali, a political science professor in Tripoli.
“The fears of seeing these arms finding their way into bad hands persists,” she warned.


Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

Updated 7 min 2 sec ago

Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

  • Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity”
  • He expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October"

BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to begin implementing in October a set of economic and financial measures agreed by its top leadership that will boost economic growth, President Michel Aoun said on Sunday, vowing that he would to tend to this himself.
He was referring to decisions taken at a top-level meeting earlier this month with the aim of reviving an economy that has been growing slowly for years and is struggling with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
After the Aug. 9 meeting, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said agreed steps included finishing the 2020 budget on time, drawing up a plan to start $3.3 billion of projects approved by parliament, full implementation of a power sector reform plan, and laws to fight tax evasion and regulate public tenders.
“I will personally tend to the implementation path of the decisions of the financial and economic meeting” in cooperation with Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parties in government, Aoun said.
In written comments to Reuters, Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity,” including in the implementation of the 2019 budget and its reforms.
Aoun said he expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October after the conclusion of the current preparations ... which will lead to lifting of the growth rates, reflecting positively on the economic and financial situations.”
After years of backsliding on economic reform, the impetus to act has grown due to economic stagnation and a slowdown in the flow of dollars into Lebanon’s banks from abroad. Lebanon has depended on such flows from its diaspora to finance the current account and the state budget deficits.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for major infrastructure at the so-called Cedre conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Measures to reduce the budget deficit and reform the power sector, which bleeds public funds while inflicting daily power cuts on Lebanese, are seen as two vital tests of the government’s ability to reform.
The International Monetary Fund said in July this year’s deficit is likely to be well above a targeted 7.6% of national output.
It said the power reform plan and a budget to reduce the deficit were “very welcome first steps” and “further substantial fiscal adjustment and structural reforms” were needed.
Aoun said work was underway to approve the 2020 budget in the constitutional timeframe.
It would include “new, resolute reforms” agreed at the Aug. 9 meeting to reduce the power sector deficit, improve tax collection and fight customs and tax evasion.
Aoun also said frameworks must be put in place for implementing a plan drawn up by management consulting firm McKinsey for revamping the economy and this should coincide with the start of projects outlined at the Cedre conference.