US Africa Command has warned against the possibility of terrorist attacks by ISIS militants against Libya’s so-called ‘Oil Crescent’. The area is located 500 km east of the capital Tripoli and is home to the country’s largest oil reserves and export terminals. Libyan oil reserves are the largest in Africa and among the ten largest worldwide with 46.4 billion barrels as of 2010. AFRICOM spokesperson Robyn Mack commented that “at the moment, we believe that the organization (ISIS-Libya) is likely to give priority to the restructuring of security forces and infrastructure, and to launch strikes, which may include targets in the Libyan oil crescent.”
Since 2017, the oil-rich area has been under the control of the Libyan National Army, which is cooperating with the National Oil Corporation to protect the strategic ‘Oil Crescent’ from militant groups. According to Ms. Mack, ISIS-Libya would keep the current strategy with focus on rebuilding operational capabilities and exploiting areas under Libyan control to destabilize the country and erode political efforts. “The United States stands by its Libyan counterparts and supports their efforts to combat terrorist threats and defeat ISIS there”, she emphasized. The ongoing instability offers jihadist groups an opportunity to operate in a country where thousands of migrants and refugees are stranded in harsh conditions.
ISIS does not hold any territory in Libya anymore but its fighters remain active across the country. These groupings are linked to pro-Al-Qaeda cells with further ties to broader networks throughout North Africa and the Sahel. The Libyan economy has collapsed as a result of protracted security issues and Libyans are suffering from persistent energy, food and water shortages. Meanwhile, corruption and cross-border crime including smuggling networks are thriving in the country.