Al-Qaida’s Strategy in Libya: Keep it Local, Stupid

This article looks at how al-Qaida-linked groups focus on the local struggle in Libya, how they have shaped their strategies and activities in the country, and what impact this has had on the communities where they are active. It explores how al-Qaida-linked groups have adapted their strategies differently in the eastern cities of Benghazi and Derna and draws out the main implications for Libya’s future and the future of al-Qaida-linked groups in Libya. It argues that in Libya, al-Qaida-linked groups have done a better job than their ISIS-linked counterparts at staying rooted to local concerns, local actors, and evolving country dynamics, and that this has allowed them to mimic and replicate local and traditional power structures. The Libyan authorities’ failure to delegitimize the underpinning ideology of al-Qaida-linked groups, the normalization of violence and extremism within society, and a pervasive zero-sum mentality have all contributed to the longevity of these groups. The core conclusion is that the rise of Salafi-jihadism in Libya is a symptom of broader, deeper governance problems and that without sustained, unified political and social efforts to address these problems, al-Qaida-linked groups will continue to maintain a presence in the country.


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