AFRICOM: Foreign Interference Complicating Libyan Crisis

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The US African Command (AFRICOM) released a report on the situation in Libya, stating that it has not had a physical presence in Libya since April 2019. This is due to the unpredictable security environment caused by the civil war between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA).

It added that fighters with previous ties to violent extremist organisations, have been taking part in the conflict. It is possible they are fighting for financial and personal reasons rather than for ideological motivations. Additionally, it reported that there were increasing reports of theft, sexual assault, and misconduct by Syrian mercenaries. This is likely to compound an already dangerous security environment, and result in backlash from the public.

Under the North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operation, AFRICOM is seeking to counter both Islamic State and Al-Qaeda forces in North Africa. It reported that it observed no changes to Violent Extremist Organisations’ (VEO) tactics, that could be attributed to COVID-19. However, the deployment of thousands of foreign mercenaries to Libya, who are not monitored for COVID-19, increased the likelihood of spreading the virus between conflict zones in Libya.

Libya and IS

During the quarter, IS claimed responsibility for a Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack against a security checkpoint in Taraghin, which is located 600 miles south of Tripoli. There were no reported casualties. According to media reporting, it was the first attack by IS in more than a year.

Turkey’s Support For GNA

Turkey’s support of the GNA, includes the deployment of Syrian mercenaries, and Turkish troops. This contributed to the GNA military gains in northwest Libya during the summer. Militias’ support to Syrian mercenaries fighting on the front lines, also contributed to the GNA’s territorial gains. Turkey maintains regular flights between Istanbul and Tripoli to conduct material resupply.

AFRICOM estimated that several dozen personnel from the Turkish private military company, Sadat, have been deployed to Tripoli. They are to train both GNA-aligned militias and Syrian fighters. These individuals included trainers, advisors, ordnance disposal personnel, and Turkish air defence systems operators.

AFRICOM described the Syrians fighting in Libya as “inexperienced, uneducated, and motivated by promises of considerable salary.” While the Syrian mercenaries have bolstered GNA operations, their continued presence will continue to negatively affect the overall security situation in Libya. The United States continues to publicly, and privately call for an end to foreign interference in Libya.

On the 6th of June, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, announced a political initiative that called for a ceasefire in Libya, renewed political negotiations, the expulsion of all foreign mercenaries, and the resumption of LNA counterterrorism activities against VEO. However, the Turkish government and GNA rejected the Egyptian proposal, claiming it was “insincere”, and would effectively require the GNA to “surrender” all security responsibility to the LNA.

United States Promotes UN-Facilitated Ceasefire in Libya

The United States has engaged in diplomatic efforts to promote a UN-facilitated ceasefire, and participated in talks about the security, political, and economic situation in Libya.

The State Department (DoS) reported that US mediation efforts focused on resolving the ongoing LNA shutdown of Libya’s oil sector, promoting increased fiscal transparency and preventing further military escalation. In addition, the DoS reported that the United States co-chaired the Economic Working Group of the International Follow-up Committee. This is the body established to coordinate implementation of the conclusions of the January 2020 Berlin Conference on Libya