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Four Pathways for ISIS in Libya

This report summarizes the finding of a wargame Wikistrat ran to explore how the United States government should respond to a range of future pathways for ISIS in Libya.

The exercise involved some 100 analysts from 19 different countries, handpicked from Wikistrat’s global community of 2,500 experts.

The participants were divided into four teams, each of which simulated the decision-making process of the U.S. government under the conditions of one of the four scenarios, ranging from ISIS becoming weaker and more careful to the group becoming stronger and bolder.

Strategic Takeaways

  • Defeating ISIS in Libya requires more than just a military solution. The conditions that allow ISIS to exist – especially the political divisions in Libya – need to be addressed to prevent the group’s expansion.

  • If the two main factions in Libya are able to establish a relationship based on destroying ISIS together, they could use this unity to begin rebuilding civil institutions. This needs to be the focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

  • The U.S. is treating the ISIS problem in Libya as if the solution set is the same as in Iraq and Syria because it appears to fit a similar pattern.The urge to “do something” without major commitment may result in an overreliance on air power and special forces.

  • The U.S. is underutilizing its naval resources in Libya, an area where it has a unique advantage.Unless the U.S. wants to go “all in” with strong military force and ground elements, it has limited influence on the ground and should cooperate closely with European partners who are more intimately involved.

  • It may prove too difficult to have some key players like Haftar be part of an effort against ISIS. Hafter in particular is likely waiting for the GNA to fail.

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