The city of Sirte has seen a period of fragile stability since December 2016.
Despite the successes of local actors in maintaining this balance, on 4 April 2019 it was undermined by the Libyan Armed Arab Forces’ (LAAF) assault on Tripoli, the centre of the Government of National Accord (GNA).
Since then, the city has become more important to both parties in the conflict. On 6 January 2020 following a surprise attack, the LAAF succeeded in taking control of Sirte.
Although the city had previously been subjected to airstrikes by unidentified parties in support of the LAAF General Command in September 2019, the GNA did not take any precautions to repel the broad ground offensive as it primarily focused on defending Tripoli.
The LAAF was quick to try and consolidate its control over the city, whose location and socio-political specificities made it a very important strategic gain.
The strategic importance of Sirte changed from January to June 2020 as the balance of power tipped between Libya’s two main warring coalitions.
The collapse of the LAAF forces in western Libya – as a result of the withdrawal of the Russian Wagner Group forces – led to the withdrawal of all LAAF forces from the region and them gathering in the Sirte and al-Jufra region.
Sirte gradually became the main frontline in the domestic and international conflict, and a focal point in military and political negotiations.
The MIDDLE EAST DIRECTIONS Programme, created in 2016, is part of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. It has the ambition to become an international reference point for research on the Middle East and North Africa Region, studying socio-political, economic and religious trends and transformations. The programme produces academic outputs such as working papers and e-books. It also liaises with policy makers with a wide range of policy briefs, policy report and analysis.