Libyan Army Flag
2016 (current form)
|Part of||Libyan Armed Forces|
|Chairman of the Presidential Council||Fayez al-Sarraj|
|Chief of General Staff||Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Shareef|
The Libyan Army is the land warfare branch of the military of Libya, which since December 2015 has been nominally subordinated to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. Due to the instability in the country in 2011 civil war and the outbreak of a new conflict in 2014, the Libyan ground forces remain highly divided, with major components constituting the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Khalifa Haftar. The forces loyal to the GNA have been fighting against various other factions in Libya, as well as terrorists groups like the Islamic State. Some efforts have been made to create a truly national army, but most of the forces under the Tripoli government's command consist of various militia groups, such as the Tripoli Protection Force, and local factions from cities like Misrata and Zintan.
In 2017, there was no truly unified army or air force under the Presidential Council's command, and only the Libyan Navy was fully operating under the GNA's control. The Tripoli government aimed to integrate many different militia groups into a regular command structure, and created a Presidential Guard. Prime Minister Sarraj hold the role of supreme commander of the army. The Libyan Army is commanded by the GNA Defense Ministry, which was initially led by Colonel Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi from 2016 until he was removed in July 2018, at which point GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj took on the role of defense minister. The Chief of the General Staff was Major General Abdel Rahman al-Taweel, from September 2017 until his removal in February 2019, being replaced by Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Shareef.
Since the establishment of the Government of National Accord in 2016 clashes continued to occur between different factions in Tripoli nominally loyal to the new UN-backed unity government, leaving hundreds dead. Khalifa al-Ghawil proclaimed the creation of a new government consisting of the former General National Congress. Elements of the Presidential Guard defected to the rebels and took over key buildings in the capital. Pro-GNA forces eventually were able to defeat the GNC coup attempt. Around mid-2017, militias allied to the GNA fully secured the capital. In August 2018 fighting broke out between different groups in Tripoli that were all nominally subordinated to the GNA's defense ministry, forcing Prime Minister Sarraj to call in other militias from different towns outside the capital. A unit called the 7th Brigade had rebelled, leading to its dissolution.
On 6 April 2019, a joint operations room was formed in response to Khalifa Haftar's attack on Tripoli to coordinate their military forces. It is led by Western military zone commander Osama al-Juwaili and includes the heads of the Tripoli and Central military zones, the Counter-Terrorism Force, and representatives from the Presidential Guard and Military Intelligence Bureau.
In response to a common interest in defending Tripoli against the LNA, the armed militias that in mid 2019 composed the armed forces of the GNA coordinated with one another mainly by agreement among armed group commanders rather than by the official command structure. The militias remained mostly autonomous in decision-making while formally being integrated into the GNA chain of command. Lacher Wolfram, writing in a Security Assessment in North Africa publication, described this as "bottom-up integration" and a "remarkable development" that "could potentially serve as a starting point for the creation of properly integrated forces ... [with] loyalty to a unified command structure".
On 1 June 2017, the GNA announced the creation of seven military zones throughout Libya. They include Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, Sabha (Southern), Kufra, Central (from Misrata to Zuwetina), and Western (west of Tripoli to Jebel Nafusa) . The commanders of each zone were responsible for training and preparation of the forces in their area and answered to the Libyan army chief of staff. Not all of the territories accounted for were under the GNA's control at the time.
The leaders of the military zones are as follows.
- Tripoli: Maj. Gen. Abdel Basset Marwan (from 14 March 2018) – Militia leader from Tripoli.
- Western: Maj. Gen. Osama al-Juwaili (from 4 June 2017) – Zintan military council leader.
- Central: Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Haddad (from 4 June 2017) – Halbous Brigade leader from Misrata.
- Southern (Sabha): Ali Kanna (from 6 February 2019) – Tuareg militia leader.
- Kufra: Brig. Belgasim al-Abaj – tribal leader from Kufra.
- Tripoli Protection Force
- Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna
- Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries
- Libya Shield Force
- Petroleum Facilities Guard
- Zintan Brigades
- Tuareg militias in Fezzan
- Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade
- Abu Saleem Central Security Force
Relations with the LNA
The other major military force in Libya is the Libyan National Army (LNA), which in 2014 evolved from what was originally called the LNA in 2011 following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. In 2014, the LNA came under the control of Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the House of Representatives, whose geographical location is in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk. In April 2019, after months of negotiations failing to bring about a reconciliation between the two rival governments, the LNA and the GNA's forces entered into open hostilities in the Tripoli region with Haftar launching an offensive on the capital.
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- Assad, Abdulkader (8 October 2019). "Al-Sarraj orders military support for Libyan Army forces on frontlines". The Libya Observer. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
- Ali H. M.Abo Rezeg (20 March 2018). Cairo eyes unification of Libyan military establishment. Anadolu Agency.
- Lewis, Aidan (31 August 2016). Libyan forces prepare for last push against Islamic State in Sirte. Reuters.
- Nicholas Norbrook (22 June 2016). Libyan army gains ground against IS in Sirte. The Africa Report.
- Wehrey, Frederic (19 March 2019). A Minister, a General, and the Militias: Libya's Shifting Balance of Power. The New York Review of Books.
- Dozens dead after days of clashes near Libyan capital. France24. Published 31 August 2018.
- Serraj appoints military chief of staff. Libya Herald. Published 1 September 2017.
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- Pro-Karah Office Tipped for Top Military Post. The Libya Times. Published 14 March 2018.
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- PC decides to divide the country into seven military zones. Libya Herald. 1 June 2017.
- PC appoints military commanders. Libya Herald. Published 4 June 2017.
- Libya to be divided into 7 military zones. Middle East Monitor. Published 2 June 2017.
- Mahmoud, Khalid (27 May 2018). Libya: Sarraj Discusses Situation in South. Asharq al-Awsat.
- Fayez al-Sarraj parleys with some Libyan military commanders. PanaPress. Published 4 March 2019.
- Libya: Al-Sirraj appoints Ali Kanna commander of Sabha military zone. Libya Observer. Published 6 February 2019.
- Kufra tribes gather for peace and vow support to LNA. Libya Herald. Published 2 May 2018.
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- Dabbashi: Ali Kanna wanted to grant Libyan nationality to Malian Tuaregs in 2011. Address Libya. Published 7 February 2019.
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