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Current Affairs 12 April 2019 Digest 1: Libyan Crisis explained; US Homeland Security Secretary resigns

Libya has no single government currently, with Haftar's LNA backing the Tobruk-based parliament which governs eastern Libya and the GNA that controls Libya's western parts from Tripoli.

Apr 12, 2019 10:46 IST
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Story 1- Libyan Crisis: Explained

Libya has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed by rebels in 2011. The crisis was triggered by the Arab Spring protests, a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in late 2010.

Arab Spring- First Civil War

The protests led to a civil war, which invited intervention from a multinational coalition led by NATO forces to protect civilians against attacks by the government's forces..

Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power in the wake of the fall of Tripoli to the rebel forces in August 2011, although pockets of resistance held by forces loyal to Gaddafi's government held out for another two months, especially in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which he declared as the new capital of Libya in September 2011.

Gaddafi’s regime finally came to an end in October 2011 with Sirte's capture and his killing by rebel fighters.

The civil war's aftermath and proliferation of armed groups led to violence and instability across the country, which erupted into renewed civil war in 2014 among rival groups seeking control of the territory of Libya.

Second Civil War

The second Libyan civil war has been mostly between the government of the Council of Deputies that was elected democratically in 2014 and internationally recognised as the Libyan Government, also known as the ‘Tobruk government’ and the rival Islamist government of the General National Congress (GNC), also called the National Salvation Government, based in the capital Tripoli.

While the Tobruk government has the loyalty of General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army and the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the Islamist government of the GNC, which rejected the results of the 2014 election, is led by the Muslim Brotherhood with the backing of a wider Islamist coalition known as ‘Libya Dawn’ and other militias, aided by Qatar, Sudan and Turkey.

In December 2015 these two factions agreed in principle to unite as the Government of National Accord. Although the Government of National Accord is now functioning, its authority is still unclear as specific details acceptable to both sides have not yet been agreed upon.

The ongoing crisis in Libya has so far resulted in thousands of casualties since the onset of violence in early 2011 and has also led to a collapse of Libya's economically crucial oil industry.

General Haftar, who casts himself as a foe of Islamist extremism is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mold of Gaddafi.

The recent fighting has taken the United Nations by surprise and undermined plans to find agreement on a road map for elections to resolve the protracted instability in Libya.

Background

Libya, which has undergone years of conflict, has no single government currently, with Haftar's LNA backing the Tobruk-based parliament which governs eastern Libya and the GNA which controls Libya's western parts from Tripoli.

Even though a deal was signed in 2015 which created the Government of National Accord (GNA) as the legitimate interim Libyan government, it was not wholly implemented due to disagreements with the Tobruk-based parliament.

General Haftar has been accused of violating political agreements concluded under the United Nations by Fayez Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the UN-backed GNA.

In fact, General Haftar's LNA forces have been carrying out a multi-pronged attack from the south and west of Tripoli since April 4.

On April 7, LNA carried out its first air strike, a day after the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) hit them with air strikes on April 6. Around 11 people were killed and 23 wounded in clashes in southern Tripoli on April 7.

International powers call for immediate halt to the violence!

The United States on April 7, 2019 called for an immediate halt to military operations in Libya as the Libyan National Army headed by Khalifa Haftar advanced on the nation’s capital, Tripoli.

The UN also appealed for a two-hour truce so casualties and civilians could be evacuated, but the fighting continued.

International powers have begun evacuating personnel from Libya amidst the worsening security situation.

While the US Africa Command, responsible for US military operations and liaison in Africa temporarily relocated its contingent due to increased unrest, India also evacuated its full contingent of 15 CRPF peacekeepers due to the worsening situation in Libya.

Story 2- Kirstjen Nielsen steps down as US Homeland Security Secretary

Kirstjen Nielsen, the US homeland security secretary, on April 7, 2019 stepped down from her position, ending a tumultuous tenure in charge of the border security agency that had made her the target of the president’s criticism.

Nielsen announced her resignation after meeting with US President Donald Trump. In her resignation letter, she wrote that it was the right time for her to step aside. She further stated that she hoped that the next secretary will have the support of Congress and the courts in fixing the laws that have impeded the ability to fully secure America’s borders and that have contributed to discord in the nation’s discourse.

Nielsen would be temporarily replaced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. Her departure comes almost a year after she was confirmed to take over the post from John Kelly when he became the president's chief of staff. Nielsen's department was responsible for implementing the proposed border wall and the separation of migrant families.

would take over as the acting replacement for Ms. Nielsen, who became the sixth secretary to lead the agency in late 2017.

Key Highlights

Nielsen stated that she would stay on as secretary through April 10 in order to assist with an orderly transition.

The abruptness was unusual because the Department of Homeland Security currently does not have a deputy secretary, who would normally take the reins.

Nielsen was recently under a lot of pressure from President Trump to be more aggressive in stemming the influx of migrant crossings at the border.

Trump in recent weeks had asked Nielsen to close the ports of entry along the border and to stop accepting asylum seekers, which Nielsen had found ineffective and inappropriate.

She had repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on her department by federal laws, court settlements and international obligations.

She had also hesitated for weeks about whether to sign a memo ordering the routine separation of migrant children from their families so that the parents could be detained, which was appreciated by the President.

Background

Trump, in his effort to galvanize support before 2020 Presidential Elections, had racked up his anti-immigration message in recent months by shutting down the US government and then declaring a national emergency to secure funding to build a border wall, cutting aid to Central American countries and repeatedly denouncing what he believes is a crisis of migrants trying to enter the country.

While the number of border crossings is not as high as in the early 2000s, the demographic of migrants has shifted largely from individual Mexicans looking for jobs, who could easily be deported, to Central American families, overwhelming detention facilities and prompting mass releases of migrants into cities along the border.

According to estimates, the US border officials stopped as many as 100,000 migrants in March 2019.

While Trump often blamed Nielsen for the surge in migrant crossings, Nielsen’s most enduring legacy as secretary in the Trump Administration was carrying out the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at the southwestern border, which initially resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their families.

An intense backlash ensued, and the Department of Homeland Security was unprepared to deal with separating nearly 3,000 children from their parents.

About Kirstjen Nielsen

The 46-year-old Nielsen was the youngest person to lead the US Homeland Security Department. The Department is an amalgamation of 22 government agencies that was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers.

The department is responsible for everything from protecting the nation from cyber attacks to responding to natural disasters. In months following the September 11 attacks, Nielsen helped set up the Transportation Security Administration, now an agency within the department.

She has also worked as a special assistant to President George W Bush on natural disaster response while serving on the White House Homeland Security Council.

Nielsen initially joined the Trump administration in January 2017 as an assistant to Trump's first DHS secretary, John Kelly. When Kelly moved to the White House as Trump's chief of staff in July 2017, Nielsen went with him as his deputy.

However, in October 2017, she was chosen as the Secretary of the Security Department.

Nielsen lost a powerful protector when Kelly, her mentor, left his job as White House chief of staff at the beginning of 2019.

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