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Mercenaries and foreign fighters threaten the fragile transition in Libya


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The Libyan foreign minister has repeatedly called on foreign forces and mercenaries to leave the country. The latest call from Najla Al-Manjoush, the country’s first foreign minister, came at a press conference with her Turkish counterpart, who He visited Tripoli May 3 Manqoush said that she wants Turkey to cooperate with Libya to end “the presence of all foreign forces and mercenaries” on Libyan soil. She concluded her statements by saying that such a step would “preserve” the sovereignty of Libya.

However, her guest had a different view of the topic. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did not directly address the issue at hand. Instead, he seemed to wonder who should leave Libya in the first place. Cavusoglu said it was wrong to equate the Turkish military presence in Libya with “illegal groups,” noting that his country had sent forces to help defend Tripoli. The two ministers ended their private meeting to discuss the matter, but they appeared. Publicly objectionable.

In November 2019, the former Tripoli government signed the Security note With Ankara. Neither side has yet revealed the details of the deal, but it basically granted Turkey the right to send professional forces to Libya for training and other tasks. On January 2, 2020, the Turkish Parliament voted to allow the Military deployment Of troops in the North African country. However, Ankara not only sent regular forces, but also sent thousands of Syrian fighters from among a group of mercenaries available to Ankara from among the various pro-Turkish Syrian armed groups.

The US Department of Defense estimated that Ankara had sent more than one 3,500 Syrian fighters To Libya. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated this by at least September 2020 15 thousand Syrian fighters They were in Libya. It is worth noting that Mengusha, in her numerous statements on this issue, never uttered the words that “Turkish forces” should leave as well.

However, her supporters defended her by saying that she had previously said numerous times that “all foreign forces and mercenaries” should leave the country. This should mean Turkish forces as well. But to its critics, the statement of “All Foreign Forces and Mercenaries” is too general and does not necessarily include officers of the Turkish regular army in Libya now.

A political advisor to the former Libyan government, with direct knowledge of the 2019 security agreement, told Al-Monitor, “One has to remember that Tripoli was besieged” by the Libyan National Army forces led by Khalifa Haftar when the security agreement was signed. .

To put an engraved statement in context, the advisor said that “Tripoli was desperate to defend itself against Haftar” and that Turkey came to save the situation. And on the question of whether the security deal legalizes the use of Syrian mercenaries or not, the consultant pointed out that “everything that Turkey offers to Libya is legal” as long as it does not openly contradict the terms of the security deal. These terms remain unknown as neither Tripoli nor Ankara has released any details of the document.

The question of foreign fighters and mercenaries – who should leave and when – remains a mystery.

In 2019, Haftar’s forces were a few miles from downtown Tripoli, and they maintained their control over the capital throughout the summer of 2019 and early 2020. Their siege of the city did not begin until after the arrival of Turkish forces and their Syrian mercenaries. battlefield.

By June 2020, the LNA had lost its positions around Tripoli and began to crumble. The former advisor said the loss created the kind of domino effect that saw the LNA positions – from southern Tripoli to Tarhuna, southeast of the country – fall one by one very quickly.

All this is history now. But the question remains: Who can now decide whether all foreign forces and mercenaries should leave Libya? Does the security agreement indicate any time frame for these forces and forces to leave the Libyan territories? This last part remains secret until now, because very little has been published about the security deal between Tripoli and Ankara.

More importantly, who are the foreign forces, including mercenaries, who are in Libya now? Al-Hadi Omar, a law professor at the University of Tripoli, believes that there are many “foreign forces in Libya today.” He told Al-Monitor, “There are more than 3000 soldiers from the Russian Wagner Group, in addition to hundreds of mercenaries from Sudan, Chad and Syria.” All of these groups have fought alongside the LNA over the past few years, and many of them remain in Libya. The Syrian mercenaries are divided into two parts: those who assist the Libyan National Army and others, most of whom were brought in by Ankara, to help the former Tripoli. Government.

Omar added, “When Manqoush says that all foreign forces must leave, you have to look at the statement in the” right context. ”

For example, supporters of the Libyan National Army believe that the foreign minister means only foreign fighters who aid the LNA except for Turkish and Syrian mercenaries who fought for the former power in Tripoli. For supporters of the LNA, the security deal that brought such forces to Libya is an illegal document. Accordingly, the Turkish forces and their Syrian mercenaries must leave Libya. This, of course, was a major demand of Haftar as well.

From a legal standpoint, Omar said that the current government of national unity “is bound by any treaties or deals concluded by its predecessor.” This means excluding Turkish forces because they came to the country under formal security arrangements by Tripoli and Ankara. Omar concluded by saying, “If Libya requests the departure of these forces, they must leave.” This is likely to be another contentious issue when deciding on the matter.

The foreign fighter units of the Libyan National Army are now present in the Sirte region in the center of the country, while the Turkish forces and their Syrian mercenaries are in two locations: the new naval base near Misurata, east of Tripoli, and al-WatiyaIt is an old air base for the Libyan army that was under the control of the Libyan National Army, located southwest of the capital and overlooking the coast of Libya on the Mediterranean Sea.

Against this background, it appears that neither the LNA nor the Government of National Unity can in fact determine who should leave, when, and who should stay. Russia, for example, has always denied any control over the employees of the Wagner Group. President Vladimir Putin himself scored, earlier last year, and Refusal Russia has no control over the Wagner Group in Libya. In September 2020, the Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia rejected any proposal Russian intervention In Libya, by saying that “there is not a single Russian soldier” in Libya at present.

The Joint Military Committee – also called the 5 + 5 Committee – made up of equal numbers of military officers from eastern and western Libya, agreed to a ceasefire and prisoner exchange, but has so far failed to agree on how to get the foreign fighters outside. in that The last meeting In Sirte, on March 16, I requested assistance from the United Nations Security Council to push back the foreign fighters.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi acarDuring his visit to his forces in Libya on May 3, he indicated that the Turkish presence in Libya is of vital importance in protecting[Turkish] Rights in the eastern Mediterranean. ”Omar said that this means“ Ankara is looking to the long term ”and wants to stay in Libya at least for the next decade. In practice, this might hinder the Libyan elections scheduled for December. In fact, The current government is supposed to remove all foreign forces from the country by the time of the elections.

Omar added that “neither Haftar nor Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dabaiba” can decide when foreign fighters must leave Libya. Such a decision rests with Ankara and Moscow, not Tripoli or even the United Nations Security Council.

If this is the case, then full road map That led to the emergence of the national unity government, and its legitimacy may be at stake. One of its prerequisites for free and fair elections is the departure of foreign forces from Libya before any elections take place. This has not happened yet, but the scheduled election date is approaching every day.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Algulf.net and Algulf.net does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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