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01 November 2018

Are Blikeng awarded the War Studies Online Lawrence Freedman Award

Are Blikeng was awarded the Annual Lawrence Freedman Award for the best War Studies Online dissertation in 2017–18.

Are Bilkeng
Are Bilkeng

Doomed to fail? Why was ISIS-Libya unable to replicate ISIS’s initial success in Syria and Iraq?


In late 2015, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) appeared to be on the rise in Libya, Its Libyan affiliate (ISIS-L) had already established a stronghold in the city of Sirt, and a UN report warned that Libya could become a fallback base for ISIS's leadership if it was defeated in the Levant. By early 2016, concern had arisen that ISIS-L would not only provide ISIS with a place to escape, but that ISIS's Libyan province could also replicate the strengths of ISIS's core organisation. Yet, less than a year later, by the end of 2016, ISIS had lost all its territory in Libya without ever coming close to replicating the achievements of its parent organisation.

This dissertation examines why ISIS failed in Libya. The research question that guides this examination is: 'Doomed to fail? Why was ISIS-Libya unable to replicate ISIS's initial success in Syria and Iraq?' By comparing and contrasting the rise of ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Libya, this paper finds that ISIS's Libyan branch fell consistently short of ISIS's achievements in all four stages of its transformation from an Iraqi terror group into a large proto state. The reasons for this are twofold, First, ISIS encountered a radically different social, political, economic, and physical environment in Libya than it had in the Levant. Many of the factors that assisted ISIS's rise in the Levant were simply not present in Libya. Instead, Libya presented ISIS with a number of limitations that made territorial expansion and supporting a proto­state very difficult, Second, the rise of ISIS-L was also made more difficult by developments in ISIS's core territory. The establishment of the caliphate, and ISIS's global conflict with at-Qaeda, limited the ability of ISIS-L to adapt its strategy to its local needs in Libya. In sum, these limitations made it almost impossible for ISIS-L to replicate ISIS's initial success in Syriaand Iraq.

Note: Owing to copyright restrictions, the full text of the dissertation is only available to current War Studies Online students.

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