With over 1,000 killed since the beginning of the most recent round of fighting in April, the Libyan National Army (LNA) offensive against Tripoli seems far from over despite recent calls by its nominal international backers, particularly France & the UAE, for a diplomatic solution.
Within this setting, the recapture of the LNA forward operating base in Gharyan by Government of National Accord (GNA) forces and their allies represented not only a major setback for LNA commander General Haftar (his first significant loss), but further exposed the complex, precarious coalitions & alliances at work in the current conflict.
Consider Gharyan: local militias - ostensibly allies of the LNA - joined forces with advancing GNA combatants, resulting in the expulsion of the LNA from the town & the loss of a critical base of operations. Following the battle, a spokesperson for the LNA framed the loss as a "betrayal"; such setbacks cast doubt on the effectiveness of the clientele relationships constructed by Gen. Haftar with local power brokers & militias across Libya as he seeks to solidify his control.
This strategy hasn't been without its successes though. Consider Tarhouna: the LNA's remaining logistics hub for the Tripoli offensive. The most prominent local militia being the Seventh Brigade - initially aligned with the GNA in 2017 before heavy clashes with Haitham al-Tajuri's Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade drove them away from their former partners. Only days before the April offensive, the brigade joined with Haftar's forces following promises of lucrative security contracts following the successful conclusion of the campaign.
On the other side, the GNA has always relied on a wide array of militias & warlords, many of whom had previously fought each other prior to the beginning of the April offensive. Currently included amongst GNA-aligned forces are Islamist militias, such as Madkhali-Salafi with roughly 1,000 fighters in Tripoli, combatants from Benghazi displaced by Haftar's earlier operations, Tripoli-based gangs such as the Nawasi Brigade, and Misratan militias such as the Mahjub Brigade. In spite of the varied background of these forces, they all share a common perception that Haftar represents a return to pre-2011 Libya, amid fears that he would seek to govern as a strongman with little regard for human rights & democracy should his operation prove successful.
This fear of Haftar hasn't resulted in the creation of an ironclad partnership though. Many in the GNA also raise questions regarding the reliability of their current arrangements. Commanders have publicly accused the government of using the war to purposely exhaust their arsenals; some have sought to conserve large stocks of weapons in expectations that they would need to defend their communities or fight their former allies again. Additionally, the central role currently played by Misratan militias in the current conflict has raised concerns within GNA circles. Misratan deaths account for roughly half of all GNA losses, and some worry that the Misratans will attempt to unduly increase their political & financial influence in the capital by capitalising on this.
All things considered, the wide range of actors involved on all sides of the current conflict, and subsequently their divergent interests, has only greatly increased the volatility & complexity of the current standoff around Tripoli - all of which is only fuelling greater instability within Libya.