The U.S. has abandoned its partners in the fight against ISIS, and the Russians are capitalizing on the void. Middle Eastern rivals are duking it out to choose the government of a failed state, which collapsed into civil war after an Arab Spring revolution. Salafi-jihadi groups like ISIS and al Qaeda are preparing to stage a comeback in the chaos.
Libya cracked the crowded U.S. headlines this week with the news of growing Russian military intervention in the embattled North African country. Thousands of Russian mercenaries from the infamous mercenary Wagner Group have joined the conflict since September, signaling the Kremlin’s intent to shape the result of Libya’s long-running civil war.
Libya descended into civil war after the fall of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Since April, would-be strongman Khalifa Haftar has been trying to seize Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Haftar’s forces are besieging the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), and with it, many of the same militiamen who fought with U.S. support against ISIS in Libya in 2016. The GNA, receiving barely lukewarm support from the U.S. and Europe, has accepted Turkish military aid. The war has been largely stalemated for months but is causing mounting civilian casualties and destabilizing other parts of the country, including areas where ISIS is active.