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The Afterparty Continues
Defeat for ISIS in Libya

A month after ISIS’s sudden and nearly simultaneous seizures of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria shocked the world, the Islamist group may be in retreat on its third major battlefield: Libya. According to sources on the ground and the Libyan army, forces loyal to the internationally recognized government in Tobruk have retaken towns surrounding the ISIS stronghold of Derna, while rival jihadi groups and residents enraged by ISIS’s stringent rule have rebelled against it inside the city. More, via the Times of London:

Fierce fighting erupted in the city last Wednesday when Isis militants killed three top commanders from the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council, a rival al-Qaeda linked umbrella group, and Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, another Islamist militia. The killings angered residents already weary of the jihadists’ reign of terror, marked by public beheadings, enforcement of strict interpretation of Sharia and a steady stream of foreign fighters. […]

Witnesses told The Times that Isis militants have scattered into their residential neighbourhoods, fleeing so quickly that they abandoned their injured.

“They are being forced to defend their homes. People came out with weapons they had been hiding for many months, everyone came together against them,” said Ali, a 55-year-old resident.

On Sunday, a spokesman of the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council said on local Libyan TV that its forces had pushed Isis out of “90 per cent of the town”.

The Libyan military — who denied co-ordinating with Derna’s anti-Isis militias — said it would sweep in during the next few days and “finish the job”.

Though Western media frequently talk of its bases, strongholds, and even command structure, ISIS is not a traditional army in any sense, as Howard Gambrill Clark writes for our upcoming issue—and so defeats such as this may not be as devastating to it as they first appear. ISIS is excellent at fading into the local population after the loss of leaders or territory, then recalibrating and popping up elsewhere, exactly as it did has done in Syria and Iraq. Nor are any facts on the ground in war-torn Libya permanent, to say the least. Yet a blow to ISIS is something to cheer, especially as its toehold on Libya’s coast raises fears that it would sneak militants aboard refugee boats to attack European targets. A successful rebellion against ISIS’s unendurable rule is also heartening; as Clark points out (read the whole thing here) the greatest threat to jihadi rule is local intransigence.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    The events in Libya are an “after”, but I don’t think they are an “afterparty”.

    • Andrew Allison

      They are the afterparty of the current (mal)administration’s intervention: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/libya/2015-02-16/obamas-libya-debacle.

      • FriendlyGoat

        The “party” part is disrespectful and callous snark——totally unnecessary here or anywhere.

        • Kevin

          I can see that (perhaps more the “snark” than the “disrespect”) but I guess I’m not inclined to be quite so humorless – be of good cheer even in adversity and all that. (Though saying that in the days immediately after Amb. Stevens and his colleagues were killed would be too soon for my taste…)

          • FriendlyGoat

            I think it is disrespectful to good decent people in Libya who are harassed and endangered by the the chaos there. I know that this publication and others exist to criticize OIbama, Clinton and all people with liberal thoughts, but calling the extremely difficult life circumstances of actual people an “afterparty” is over the top. It speaks to an arrogance of the authors here that needs moderation.

          • Andrew Allison

            I beg to differ. I think its a perfectly reasonable way to describe the disaster resulting from Obama’s intervention. Speaking of disrespectful snark . . . . Have you perhaps forgotten that WRM voted for Obama not once, but twice? Only a so-called “progressive” would suggest that a blog which fails to faithfully toe the party line exists only “to criticize OIbama [sic], Clinton and all people with liberal thoughts.” In fact, the blog posts about much more than this Administration’s shambolic foreign policy and its disastrous results for the people of Libya among many others.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It’s true that TAI is more balanced than many (or most) of its comment-writing readers, and I often complement it for certain ideas mentioned here.
            But nothing Obama has done has resulted in an “afterparty”, nor should any such description be used. It was as reasonable on our part to expect a benefit from getting rid of Moammar Gadhafi as it was for anyone to expect a benefit from getting rid of Saddam Hussein. The ideas don’t really hold water that either Bush or Obama has made Islam into the irredeemable and uncontrollable mess that it is in practice.

          • Andrew Allison

            I believe that you are much smarter than your reply suggests. The issue is not what the, clearly misguided, expectations of the intervention might have been but the abysmal failure to deal with the aftermath. You broke it you own it and, no however you try to spin it, Obama owns Libya.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I believe Islam owns it. There comes a time when a religion either produces some sense—–or it doesn’t. The latest iteration is a self-proclaimed Caliph that no one from the rest of Islam can even philosophically refute, much less physically defeat. That’s not really a fault attributable to either George W; Bush supporting the end of one dictatorship or Obama supporting the end of another one.

          • Andrew Allison

            Believe what you wish, the incontrovertible fact is that Obama was the catalyst that broke it.

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