Last week, the Islamic State (IS) was finally dispossessed of its most important piece of real estate outside of the Levant: Libya’s Sirte. After months of slow progress, Misratan fighters aligned with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) finally advanced the last few hundred yards into Sirte's Al-Giza Al-Bahriya district, clearing the remaining buildings of booby-traps, IEDs and suicide bombers.
Now that IS has been territorially defeated, the question of greatest significance for Libya’s trajectory is not the one the intelligence agencies are focused on, which is what the remnants of IS will do next. Rather, it is the question diplomats and analysts have long been pondering: What will the victorious Misratan fighters do next? Potential IS terror attacks may cause panic, but the actions of the fighters from the northwestern city of Misrata have the capacity to unify or conversely destabilize the whole country. The Misratans took down IS not out of a particular hate of jihadis, but out of a desire to obtain further Western support and become Libya’s dominant political force. The gambit may have backfired. Will we now see a hot civil war between Misrata and Field Marshal Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who dominates in Libya’s east? Or with the removal of a common enemy, will the component parts of Banyan Marsus (BM) break apart, allowing Misrata’s enemies to become the dominant military force in Libya?