Several things need to happen inside Libya before the coalition can get started. Western countries need a united government that at least theoretically represents the entire country so that there is a group with which the coalition can coordinate its operations. It is little surprise, then, that several countries have supported the acceleration of unity talks between the House of Representatives, the internationally recognized government in eastern Libya, and the General National Congress, the Tripoli-based body that the West believes undermines the authority of the House of Representatives and thus the legitimacy of a military intervention.
And therein lies the difficulty of cobbling together a cohesive security force in a country as politically diverse as Libya. A successful intervention depends on at least tacit support from Libya's militias, but those militias have different long-term objectives and political orientations.
The question of who would lead a unified military perfectly exemplifies Libya's political disunity. The natural choice is Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who heads the Libyan National Army in the east. He is supported by several eastern cities, including Benghazi, Bayda, Tobruk, and Marj, as well in the west, thanks to his strategic alliance with the city of Zentan. More important, he was the military commander under the House of Representatives in Tobruk.
But he is decidedly less popular in other corners of the country. Some in the west believe Hifter is a counter-revolutionary who wants to rule Libya as forcefully as Gadhafi once did.
Hifter is also unpopular among the country's federalists, who, unlike the general, believe Libya should separated into constituent states. This is problematic because a military intervention against the Islamic State would necessarily involve support from the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which protects export terminals around As Sidra, Ras Lanuf, Marsa el Brega and Zueitina. The Petroleum Facilities Guard is led by Ibrahim Jadhran, a staunch federalist who has clashed with Hifter in the past.
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