This week was marked by a full resumption of clashes in Tripoli’s South, while reinforcements from Misrata raise concerns over prospect for clashes to expand further North.
There is mounting evidence to suggest the clashes are moving away from the initial “tactical phase” and towards a more complex web of alliances that could exacerbate tensions. Factions are no longer mainly concerned with opportunist gains and short-term objectives, including seizing military camps and other assets from Tripoli’s main militias. The tentative ceasefire has enabled Tripoli’s militias and Al-Kaniat’s coalition to restructure and mobilize additional resources. The latest wave of hostilities was marked by growing political rhetoric from all sides, including Salah Badi’s Sumoud Brigade and other militia factions. Some have even worked towards a more compelling political rationale for military operations.
Meanwhile, the Misrata Military Council’s (MMC) participation stood as the latest evidence of the potential for clashes to move into a more complex phase where tentative alliances would shift. MMC and Bunyan Al-Marsous (BAM) are divided in their support for the clashes. More moderate Misrata-based factions refused to get involved and denounced the MMC announcement, claiming it does not represent the city of Misrata. Regardless, the development and any other escalation would prompt more moderate Misrata factions to join the conflict in the short term.
The clashes in Tripoli remain limited to the South in Wadi Al-Rabei, Ain Zara, Salah Al-Dein, Khallat Al-Forjan, Hadba Al-Mashrou’ and airport road areas, though any new alliance or support to either sides would result in rapid advances further North. A situation where Salah Badi and Tarhuna militias receive significant additional support from the other Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)-affiliated elements and proGeneral National Congress (GNC) militias from Misrata, Al-Zawiya, or Gharian, would force Tripoli militias to retreat further North, potentially leading to the collapse of the current security landscape. Overall, should alliances materialize, they would clearly structure lines of the conflict along political, ideological, and/or tribal divides. Factions’ threat perception, assessment of likelihood of survival, and openness / opposition to cooperate with forces from outside Tripoli, will help determine the potential scenarios that could unfold in the short to medium term. For the Government of National Accord (GNA), the latest MMC move is likely perceived as a direct threat to its survival, which could prompt it to seek additional support from Misrata and Zintan.
While the Libyan National Army (LNA) categorically denied any involvement in the clashes, any rift or internal discord among Tripoli’s main militias would benefit Haftar and strengthen his posture and negotiating leverage in any future political settlement. A direct LNA intervention is unlikely, though willingness to cooperate with Haftar could gradually become a viable option that Tripoli militias would be compelled to consider to ensure their survival.