The British Magazine “Spiked” said that the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, has hired “several lobbying and PR firms (Mercury, Gotham, and Prime Policy Group) to help obscure shocking details about who is fighting on the ground, and why.”
A report published on Friday said that headlines of the current war between the GNA and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, are “misleading” because “they omit any mention of the sides’ respective support among the Libyan populace”.
The report indicated that the LNA was established by Libya’s only elected body – the House of Representatives (HOR) — with the aim of eradicating armed groups and terrorists from the city of Benghazi.
It argued that the LNA has gained tens of thousands of volunteers from across the country over the past six years, “transforming it into the largest and most cohesive armed force in Libya.”
It also said that “the fractious alliance of militias backing the GNA and who are in control of Tripoli and several surrounding areas are significantly more complex”.
“To the naked Libyan eye, the reasons for this are obvious: the bulk of those fighting for the survival of the GNA are criminals,” the report described.
It also added that the capture of coastal towns in western Libya by the GNA “provides a grim picture of just who stands to benefit from the survival of the government in Tripoli.”
“The only rational choice for these criminals and terrorist groups is to ally with the GNA,” according to the report, which noted that the “war crimes” committed by these armed groups “were characteristic of the militia commanders leading them, each with résumés that should alarm decision-makers well beyond Libya’s borders.”
“These commanders belong to more than a terrorist group or organisation such as the al-Nasr militia or Ansar al-Sharia and even the Islamic State (IS)”, the report added.
Regarding the Turkish intervention backing the GNA’s militias, the report said that “airstrikes carried out by Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during this year’s offensive demonstrate a high level of cooperation between the militias and the highest echelons of the GNA’s military brass.”
It also pointed out that the possibility of IS’ re-emergence or other similar militant groups in Libya’s north-west is a serious matter that should not be overlooked.
“If the re-emergence of terrorist groups along Tunisia’s border isn’t enough of a concern to neighbouring states and foreign diplomats, the arrival of over 7,000 militant jihadists and mercenaries from Northern Syria to defend the GNA in Tripoli should be,” the report stressed, noting that “Syrian militants – many of whom enjoy links to terrorist groups, including IS – Tunisian and Palestinian fighters have also appeared among these groups, which include Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, as well as the Syrian National Army’s Ahrar al-Sharqiyah faction”.
The report also indicated that it is possible that Turkish military commanders in charge of these groups may have not kept them on their best behaviour since arriving in Libya, where in addition to harassing and bullying local residents they have also taken part in the looting of homes at the frontlines.
“Though the involvement of Libyan armed groups in organised crime is alarming, the greater concern is that these foreign fighters could bolster the presence of extremist groups already present in the Libyan capital,” the report stated, adding that Tripoli has been plagued by terrorism and high-profile kidnappings.
According to the report, “the GNA is not a monolith, and even by the admission of its Minister of the Interior Fathi Bashagha, who himself has been accused of gouging out a prisoner’s eye with a spoon, the criminality of the militias supporting the GNA has provided Haftar with the impetus to attack the capital.”
The report also said that the armed groups fighting for the survival of the GNA would never allow a normal, functioning state to be established in Libya, pointing out that the GNA lacks national support and derives most of its authority from its international backers.