(Video Podcast): From Qadhafi to Chaos: The Origins, Expansion, Decline, and Rebranding of the Islamic State in Libya

This lecture was organized by the Centre for Islamic and Middle East Studies and took place at the University of Oslo December 5, 2016. Watch the video podcast here.

A seminar with Jason Pack, Cambridge University.jason-packmindre

Since the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011, Libya’s statelessness made it the ideal spot for jihadi fighters returning from Syria and Iraq. In 2014, this led initially to the Islamic State’s takeover of the only city in Libya with decades long networks to global jihadism – Derna.

Initially, the links of ISIS in Derna to Mosul and Raqqa were quite loose, but overtime ISIS’s Libya franchise came to imitate many of the key attributes of ISIS’s core in the Levant. Due to ISIS penchant for excessive brutality and extractive governance, it provoked a backlash against its rule in Derna early 2015. Meanwhile, it capitalized on the civic war inside Sirte coopting both Ansar al-Sharia elements there and disgruntled formerly pro-Qadhafi tribes. Drawing on these alliances and brutally suppressing their opponents, groups pledging allegiance ISIS established themselves as the sole power to be reckoned with in Sirte in 2015.

Now, in late 2016, after a fairly successful offensive by Misratan-led militias supported by US airstrikes, Libya is a case study of how jihadi groups can regroup and rebrand themselves when ISIS’s territorial model collapses.

Jason Pack is a Researcher of Middle Eastern History at Cambridge University, President of Libya-Analysis®, and Founder of EyeOnISISinLibya.com. He and the EyeOnISIS team are in the process of authoring the definitive overview of the Islamic State’s activities in Libya for The Brookings Institution. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Spectator, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, and Foreign Policy. One of the few Western experts on Libya’s jihadi militias, he has briefed officials at the MoD, DoD, FCO, State Department, NATO, and UN on the threats that the Islamic State’s growth in Libya poses to essential Western interests.