Libya’s current conflict is emerging as a very different one to what has been fought before in the country, or the world. Fleets of long-range drones carry out strikes, cyber-attacks proclaim the end of governments, and social media propaganda has become all-consuming. The war has devolved into a bloody stalemate, with over 1 000 fighters dead and thousands wounded in grinding urban conflict.
Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), a militia coalition based in the east of the country, have been on a mission to seize Tripoli since April. The capital is held by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), supported by militias from across western Libya.
But while it is Libyans who are fighting and dying, foreign actors have largely been driving this war. Turkey and Qatar support the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Russia and France are behind the LAAF. These foreign backers have contributed diplomatic support, military equipment, mercenaries and military personnel, and direct military action to the two sides.
The use of drones, cyber-attacks and social media propaganda, among other dynamics in Libya’s conflict, probably portend what armed conflict in this century will look like – both within and between states.
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