On 1 November, a new military campaign dubbed the ‘Tidings of Security’ began in Wershefana, south of Tripoli.
Implicitly sanctioned by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and led by the GNA appointed commander of the western region military zone, Usama al-Juwaili, the campaign is starting to gain momentum.
Beginning under the pretext of confronting the high criminality and lawlessness in the Wershafana area, the operation is part of a grander plan to reshape alliances and forces in the western region to counter the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) growing influence.
Last week when Juwaili first mobilised forces from the Zintan Military Council – that included Libyan National Army (LNA)-affiliated units – it was thought the operation was a Haftar/LNA-led initiative to move on Tripoli. However, both the GNA and LNA denied involvement, with the latter condemning the operation following heavy shelling of the main barracks of the LNA-aligned 4th Division.
What has ensued has been the creation of several new alliances.
Many militias previously aligned to opposing factions of the 2014 Dawn and Dignity coalitions are uniting under Juwaili’s command and deploying to positions south of Wershefana.
These include Tripoli’s Revolutionary Brigade (TRB) led by Tripoli strong man Haithem Tajouri, and the Kani militias from Tarhouna. Militias from Janzour and Zawiyya are also expected to join the fray.
The objective of the operation appears to be an effort to establish military and security control over Wershefana.
This could occur via a deal with the forces there through Juwaili and GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, thereby gaining leverage vis-a-vis Haftar and ending the LNA’s command over the Wershefana forces.
Alternatively, the 4th Division may stand its ground and declare war on behalf of the LNA and pledge its full loyalty to the LNA general command.
The attack on the 4th Division might therefore provide the kind of leverage needed by Serraj and his alliance of western military and militia leaders to impose military unification terms, or it may be the opening phase of a much worse civil war and escalated conflict between the LNA and GNA militias.