All Arab civil wars are not created equal. Libya has been in a state of civil war for five years now, yet it hasn’t been a civil war full of massacres or famines like the sectarian wars in Yemen and Syria. Libya’s war has certain highly unusual characteristics: low death tolls, high diffusion of arms, two governments (both of whom claim sovereignty but do not actually exercise it), extreme fragmentation of fighting forces, and the same central bank paying the fighters on all sides.
From a military perspective, the defining characteristic of Libya’s war relates to how territory is captured. Where there have been protracted pitched battles, usually against jihadists, exchange of territory happens slowly and destructively. Conversely, where there have been huge gains and losses of territory, it usually transpires with groups being bought off to switch their allegiances, or with one force marching its column of technicals across a highway and the other side running away with nary a shot being fired. What does this say for the prospects to resolve Libya’s civil war militarily, as one actor is now trying to do?