Further Reading

Recommended literature about Libya, jihadism and related issues


El-Khawas, Mohamed A. 1986. Qaddafi: his ideology in theory and practice. Brattleboro, Vt: Amana Books.

Vandewalle, Dirk. 2012. A history of modern Libya. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Vandewalle, Dirk J. 2009. Libya since 1969: Qadhafi’s revolution revisited. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Otman, Waniss A., and Erling Karlberg. 2007. The Libyan Economy Economic Diversification and International Repositioning. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Kousa, Musa M. 1978. The political leader and his social background: Muammar Qadafi, the Libyan leader.

Ayoub, Mahmoud. 2017. Islam and the third universal theory: the religious thought of Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi.

Pack, Jason. 2013. The 2011 Libyan uprisings and the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Recent Reports

Libya: From Intervention to Proxy War

July 2017

This Atlantic Council issue brief written by Karim Mezran and Elissa Miller gives an overview of international intervention in Libya since 2011. It concludes:

The West today faces a difficult choice in Libya. The disorder that enveloped the country following the 2011 NATO intervention makes any consideration of productive engagement in the country now an unattractive concept. However, it is possible to conceive of a well-planned targeted effort that could stabilize the country.

In the absence of Western leadership, Russia and regional actors with their own interests have demonstrated their willingness to step into the fray and manipulate developments on the ground. If the United States and its European allies continue to let Haftar’s allies fill the void, Libya’s conflict will only continue to escalate.

A clear plan to help stabilize Libya would involve targeted assistance from the West to bolster the PC/ GNA’s control over Tripoli and convince the various actors to engage in an inclusive, cohesive negotiation process. Given the critical national security implications of Libya’s chaos for the United States and its European allies, the choice to step back may encourage further escalation that would ultimately drag the West into Libya. A well-planned stabilization effort now, rather than an unwelcome and compulsory intervention later, would in the long run be in the best interest of the Libyan people and of those states with an interest in the stability of the region.

Tubu Trouble: State and Statelessness in the Chad-Sudan-Libya Triangle

June 2017

The Small Arms Survey has published a Working Paper entitled Tubu Trouble: State and Statelessness in the Chad–Sudan–Libya Triangle, which provides an overview of their recent and largely undocumented conflict dynamics. It reviews the evolution of Tibesti’s socio-political environment over the past few decades, including their most recent rebellion and its effects, and the tentative and partial redeployment of Chadian state authority in the region since 2011. It further discusses the repercussions of regional gold rushes since 2013, the prospects for a renewed rebellion in northern Chad, and the consequences of the fall of the Qaddafi regime in neighbouring Libya for regional security.

Click here to read the full report.

Haftar and Salafism: A Dangerous Game

6 June 2017

Ahmed Salah Ali has written a very useful and interesting article for the Atlantic Council, available in both English and Arabic, looking at the role of Salafist groups in Libya since 2011 and Haftar’s alliance with Madkhali Salafists in order to counter ‘takfiri’ jihadist Salafists. It provides an important overview of the key issues related to Salafism and its role in political and military dynamics in Libya currently.

Libya’s Religious Sector and Peacebuilding Efforts

16 March 2017

This comprehensive report from the US Institute of Peace is an excellent reference for understanding the many nuances of Libya’s religious sector including key religious trends, individuals, institutions, and prevailing attitudes about the role religion can play in peacebuilding efforts in Libya.

Derived from two surveys conducted in Libya in 2014 and 2016, this report strives to heighten understanding of the country’s religious sector and its impact on governance and society. The findings—which are bolstered by the local knowledge of Libyan researchers—map the major religious trends, institutions, and actors in the country to describe how Libyans perceive the contribution of the religious sector to building peace and fostering justice and democracy.

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya: An Enduring Threat 

February 2017
In a journal article for Perspectives on Terrorism published in February 2017, Henrik Gråtrud and Vidar Benjamin Skretting provide a useful and insightful study of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and the threat the group continues to pose both locally and globally.

Ansar al-Sharia in Libya (ASL) is one of the most powerful jihadi groups in Libya and it might, in fact, represent a more significant long-term threat than IS’ provinces in Libya. However, there are few recent studies of ASL, so exactly what kind of threat the group poses has not been adequately understood. After examining the group’s evolution, ideology, strategy and violent activities, we find that ASL is, and most likely will remain, more of a local and regional threat than a global one. The group still poses a significant threat to Western interests, as it has carried out attacks against Western targets in Libya, has close ties to al-Qaida, and operates training camps for international jihadis within its territory.

IRI Releases Libya Poll Results

9 November 2016

The International Republican Institute released the results of polling in Libya focusing on local governance.

The Libya Political Agreement: Time for a Reset

4 November 2016

Crisis Group published a detailed report on the Skhirat agreement and its impact on Libya. The report notes that “A year ago, the conflict was between rival parliaments and their associated governments; today it is mainly between accord supporters and opponents, each with defectors from the original camps and heavily armed.” It advises the international community to avoid taking sides in this changed rivalry and suggests a new security agreement.

United States Institute of Peace Reports on Justice in Libya

7 September 2016

The United States Institute of Peace has produced three fascinating and comprehensive reports on the justice sector in Libya. The first is written by Peter Cole with Fiona Mangan and is entitled ‘Policy Libya: Form and Function of Policing since the 2011 Revolution‘. The second is ‘Tribe, Security, Justice and Peace in Libya Today‘ and the final report is by Fiona Mangan and Rebecca Murray and is entitled ‘Prisons and Detention in Libya‘.

Who Pays for ISIS in Libya?

24 August 2016

James Roslington and Jason Pack discuss the financing of ISIS in Libya is this report for Hate Speech International.

Post-revolutionary Discontent and F(r)actionalisation in the Maghreb: Managing the Tunisa-Libya Border Dynamics

August 2016

Grégory Chauzal Sofia Zavagli argue for bottom-up solutions to conflict in Tunisia and Libya in this Clingendael Report from the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.

Defeating the Islamic State: Remaining Challenges

8 July 2016

Andrew Engel of The Washington Institute has published a report on IS in Libya. The battle to uproot the Islamic State in Libya (ISL) from Sirte, the group’s de facto North African capital, may soon result in victory for the Western-backed Operation Binyan Marsous (Solid Structure). Although defeating ISL in the heart of Libya’s “oil crescent” is cause for celebration, the group will continue to conduct irregular warfare and could find safe haven in the southern desert, while some of its foreign fighters might return to their home countries to wage terrorist attacks.

Libya Since 2011: Political Transformation and Violence

24 May 2016

The Middle East Policy Council released an essay by Hanspeter Mattes entitled Libya Since 2011: Political Transformation and Violence. Mr. Mattes forecasts continuing violence and stalemate in Libya.

In Libya, Politics Precedes Victory

18 May 2016

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published In Libya, Politics Precedes Victory by Terek Megerisi in its Sada Journal in which he is sharply critical of foreign efforts to stabilize Libya.

Interview with Karim Mezran

16 May 2016

Atlantic Council Resident Senior Fellow Karim Mezran was interviewed by Ashish Kumar Sen about potential western military aid for Libya’s Government of National Accord.

Intervening Better: Europe’s Second Chance in Libya and A Quick Guide to Libya’s Main Players

13 May 2016

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) released a report Intervening Better: Europe’s Second Chance in Libya by Mattia Toaldo strongly advocating for support of the unity government. ECFR also released a Quick Guide to Libya’s Main Players.

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

May 2016

The Congressional Research Service released a report by long time Middle East analyst Christopher Blanchard entitled Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy. The report suggestions growing U.S. counterterrorism concerns and potential for expanding U.S. military involvement in Libya even as political consensus in the country remains elusive.

Struggling to Fight Islamic State in a Fractured Libya

12 May 2016

Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled Struggling to Fight Islamic State in a Fractured Libya cautioning that Western focus on ISIS in Libya may further divide rather than unite the country.

What Will Interventions Look Like After Libya?

3 May 2016

PBS interviewed a number of leading Libya watchers about the NATO intervention in Libya. Karim Mezran characterized the conflict in Libya prior to NATO intervention as a civil war rather than a revolution and emphasized the importance of reconciliation and inclusion of Libyans who supported Qadhafi instead of a rush to elections in the aftermath of the war. A video about Benghazi is also included.

ISIS’s Courses of Action out of Sirte

29 April 2016

In her article for AEI’s Critical Threats site, Emily Estelle argues that the offensive against Sirte could successfully force IS to abandon the city and push the group south into the Fezzan. Estelle’s analysis may be premature, however, given that no Misratan militia commanders have yet backed the unity government plan and the composition of the task force itself remains to be determined. In fact, we believe that even if a full frontal assault materialized–a development which may not occur for months–IS may weather the attack. However, Ms Estelle is quite right in pointing out that the group could survive the conquest of Sirte and could easily establish itself in the Fezzan or in dispersed cells across the country.

Libyan Agreement on Life Support

26 April 2016

Writing for the Atlantic Council, Ronald Bruce St. John argues that the way forward for the political process in Libya is to “incorporate the traditional political model based on tribes and tribalism that has long bestowed legitimacy on Libyan governments.” Failure to do so risks exacerbating divisions rather than healing them.

Building a New Foundation for Stability in Libya

9 March 2016

This report by the Center for American Progress acknowledges the strategic complexity of US policy responses to ISIS in Libya: intervene, and threaten to undermine the process to form a functioning unity government; fail to intervene, and risk increasing the space within which ISIS can operate. The report offers some constructive responses, including forming a security council to co-ordinate anti-ISIS actions and share intelligence, providing assistance to vetted Libyan militias while pursuing the goal of unified national-level security, and providing border assistance to Libya’s neighbours, particularly Tunisia. 

Letter From Tripoli

4 March 2016

In this piece for Carnegie Europe’s Capitals Series, Tarek Megerisi notes that the atmosphere of crisis surrounding Libya is putting pressure on Europe to respond immediately and decisively. But, argues Megerisi, succumbing to such pressure would compound Libya’s problems, and ultimately Europe’s too. The emphasis of Europe’s response to Libya, he says, should be on providing a holistic solution rather than a necessarily swift one.

The Next Front Against ISIS

7 February 2016

Western support is an important part of tackling the growing threat of ISIS in Libya, but the West should first focus on bridging divides within Libya or else face exacerbating the country’s political fractures, argue Frederic Wehrey and Wolfram Lacher in this piece in Foreign Affairs. The article is published in full by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The Prize: Fighting for Libya’s Energy Wealth

3 December 2015

In a report entitled The Prize: Fighting for Libya’s Energy Wealth, International Crisis Group draws attention to Libya’s most difficult challenge: creating a functioning unity government when all parties to the conflict are incentivised by the goal of controlling the country’s hydrocarbons and financial resources. Efforts must be made to de-link the conflict from these objectives, argues the report, including setting up parallel tracks to unity government negotiations on security and economic governance, and persuading the warring parties that the longer they fight, the less there is to fight over.

Between ISIS and a Failed State: The Saga of Libyan Islamists

August 2015

Brooking working paper Between ISIS and a Failed State: The Saga of Libyan Islamists by Omar Ashoor discussing Libyan Islamist groups.