On Monday, the strategic coastal city of Sirte, under GNA control, fell to Haftar’s LNA in under three hours of fighting. Sirte has been under GNA control since it took the city back from ISIS, with American air support. The city’s defences reportedly collapsed as quickly as they did since the militia in charge of defending it, the Salafist Madkhali 604th Brigade, was convinced to switch its allegiance from the GNA to the LNA. The fall of Sirte has already raised concerns in the GNA that the militia stronghold of Misrata could be next, forcing the GNA to spread its defences thin.
The fall of Sirte to Haftar’s forces takes place as various foreign powers seem to be intensifying their involvement, seemingly jockeying for influence in the day-after. The fall of Sirte is a significant blow to the GNA, as it conceded its loss Tuesday.
Criticism of the growing role of foreign powers is also intensifying. Some are blaming foreign intervention for dictating the pace and intensity of the conflict. Analyst Fred Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment noted that the fall of Sirte could be strategically significant, as it might draw GNA fighters away from Tripoli to defend Misrata or launch a counter-strike in Sirte.