Libya remains a chaotic state with a UN-backed government hard pressed to exert control over territory ruled by a rival government, assorted militias, and extremist organizations. Stabilization will require building both trust and negotiating capacities among diverse partners. The U.S. Institute of Peace contributes to local dialogue processes and helps Libyan researchers inform policymakers on tribal allegiances and religious forces. Working on Libya since 2011, USIP also has reported on little-understood elements of the conflict such as how prisons help incubate extremist ideology, and the impact of cross-border illicit activities.
In April 2019, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive to capture Tripoli from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord seated there. Four months later, the result has been a virtual stalemate that has claimed over 1,000 lives. And while fighting on the ground is at a standstill, multiple regional actors continue providing air support and direct aid to either side. USIP’s Thomas Hill breaks down the current situation in Libya and the possibility for peace amid this deadly standoff.
The death of President Essebsi was a major loss for Tunisia, but the U.S. remains deeply invested in advancing democracy in the country. Alternatively, looking to the instability in Libya, Hill says, “The U.S. is not involved at all, [even though some] Libyans are pressing for the U.S. to do more … The most productive way the U.S. can be involved is not militarily or financially, but rather diplomatically.”
Thomas Hill, senior program officer for North Africa, testified on May 15 at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism hearing on “The Conflict in Libya.”
Diplomats and peace practitioners often cite lack of familiarity with the religious landscape as a barrier to their engagement of religious actors. In 2013, USIP launched an initiative to address this need by developing a methodology for systematically mapping and assessing the religious sector’s influence on conflict and peace dynamics in discrete conflict settings. These mappings, which have been done or are underway in Libya, South Sudan, Iraq and Burma, help illuminate recommendations for effective partnerships within the religious sector for peacebuilding.