Who will survive at the end? UN-backed Libyan forces or Khalifa Haftar

Middle East

Forces allied with Libya’s UN-supported government have wrested control of a key military base on the outskirts of the country’s capital from Khalifa Haftar, dealing a significant blow to the renegade general. In 2019 Haftar planned to take Tripoli in a lightning operation, but his forces have been mired in fighting ever since.

This latest operation has made Haftar’s eastern-based forces to withdraw from the al-Watiya airbase 90 miles south of Tripoli. His retreat, following other recent military reverses, will force those foreign capitals that back him to review the viability of his plan to overthrow the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

On the other hand, negotiations over the town of Al-Asaba to handover peacefully to Libyan Army forces under the command of the Government of National Accord (GNA) failed as pro-Haftar groups refused to pull out. Hence, the social council of Al-Asaba town announced that the town was under GNA’s authority when some of GNA units advanced on the town to seize control, pro-Haftar forces rejected the withdrawal and opened fire on the GNA forces.

Violence escalated with the GNA forces retreating to the Jandouba Bridge between Al-Asaba and Gharyan to reorganize themselves after being hit by airstrikes by UAE drones coming from the Al-Jufra airbase, and which killed five Gharyan Protection Force fighters.

In addition, Libyan Air Force targeted a vehicle laden with a UAE armored vehicle and ammunition in Al-Asaba as GNA forces mobilized forces to attack the town, possibly liberating it.

Libyan Air Force destroyed seven Russian systems in Tarhouna and another one in Al-Wishka. The Libyan Air Force was continuing its surveillance over Tarhouna city as per the military tactics of the Libyan Army operations room.

Two more Pantsir missile systems were destroyed by Libyan GNA forces in the capturing of Al-Watiya airbase when another Pantsir system was destroyed by GNA forces in southern Sirte.

The Libyan Air Force targeted two UAE Nimr armored vehicles and other military vehicles by six airstrikes on Tarhouna, besides the airstrikes on Al-Wishka, leaving behind casualties among Haftar’s forces and a number of destroyed ammunition depots.

Turkey’s foreign interventions

Turkish support for the GNA is growing, driven by Ankara’s desire to secure its energy supplies. Turkey knows there is coming to a crisis in resources and energy and they want to control the Middle East through Libya’s resources, Turkey plans to extend the access to Mediterranean gas fields, which has included the supply of both drones and Syrian mercenary forces.

Last November, Turkey defied the UN arms embargo and signed a treaty with the GNA in return for Libyan permission to access Mediterranean gas fields. It has since been supplying military support to the GNA. The bilateral treaty has been sharply criticized by Greece as being in breach of international law and in violation of Greek sovereignty.

Turkey claims that the GNA remains by law the UN-recognised government, and they have to find a way to stop the supply of arms and mercenaries to Haftar by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia. France also unofficially backs Haftar, regarding him as a bulwark against terrorism in the Sahel.

On the other hand, Turkey has caused concern in France and the UAE, because they take an interest in the country’s southern oilfields.

Turkey has reaffirmed that Haftar’s elements will be legitimate targets for its armed forces if they attack any of its interests in Libya.

Haftar’s response has been to target Turkish forces and interests in all Libyan cities. Turkey’s reply to Haftar’s statement has mirrored the defeat of his forces on the ground, even though Haftar and his supporters are trying to escalate the conflict in Libya.

Haftar’s Air Force Chief Saqr Al-Jaroushi has said, “our warplanes will carry out the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history against Turkish positions and interests in all Libyan cities,” and vowed painful hours ahead to “Erdogan and his loyalists,” saying that if they don’t surrender, “they will be annihilated.”

Russian foreign interventions

Russia had sent at least eight warplanes to Haftar, MiG 29s and two Sukhoi 24s and flown into the eastern region from the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria, escorted by two SU-35 Russian airforce jets.

Russian has not issued any comment or official statements regarding this development, however, it appears that they will support Haftar’s forces to carry out the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history to target Turkish interests in Libya.

Haftar’s forces have shut down oil ports, but the GNA has vowed to bring the perpetrators behind the shutdown of oil ports, valves, and other oil-related apparatuses to justice, adding this step will have severe consequences on Libyans and will lead to deficits in state revenue, let alone the outages of electricity due to shortages of fuel and gas.

Such vandalizing acts are regarded as economic crimes by the Libyan law and a war crime by the international humanitarian law.

Another operation from the National Accord

The forces launched a massive offensive in Salah Eddine, Ramla, and Almshrou districts forcing Haftar’s militia groups to retreat.

Haftar responded that by using the exchange of fire in Salah Eddine district, the army forces managed to recapture the Tikbali military camp, the Police College, the Passport Authority building, the Criminal Investigations Department building, the Judicial Institute, and Hai Zhour neighborhood.

Last year Haftar’s militia groups took these strategic sites. In addition, Libyan Army forces also declared full control of Almshrou district, while most of Ramla district has fallen in the hands of the army.

To answer the question, who will survive in the end? No one will remain, they will eliminate each other, the international governments will send up another leader like Haftar — based on foreign tendencies to control the region and take the oil, and Turkey willing to fight to because it also wants Libya’s energy, water and oil. The war will continue, but with different leaders.