Although the negotiations to find a political solution for Libya are ongoing, warlord Khalifa Haftar’s militias, including foreign mercenaries, are building a warlike momentum in the region.
Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) announced on Monday that warlord Khalifa Haftar has started a fundamental troop mobilisation in eastern Libya despite the ongoing second round of political dialogue between the warring sides.
Abdul-Hadi Daraa, the spokesman of the Sirte-Jufra Operations, told reporters that Haftar’s militants in Benghazi, and other eastern Libyan cities, are moving towards the western region.
Ibrahim Baytelmal, commander of the Sirte-Jufra Operations Room, also confirmed the military mobilisation and reinforcement of the warlord’s militias in the southern region and western Sirte.
Talking to Libya Al Ahrar TV, Baytelmal said that Haftar’s reinforcements are not only violating the ceasefire agreement signed between the two parties, but also reneging on joint military commission 5+5 understandings and other ongoing dialogues.
He however maintained that GNA forces are “always ready to repel any attacks by warlord Haftar’s militias as the recent endeavors by him aim to derail the political and military dialogues.”
Haftar’s preparation for a potential political failure
According to Daraa, Haftar’s aggressive stance reveals that he isn’t hopeful for any peaceful resolution and, instead, rather interested in preparing for military manoeuvres in case negotiations fail.
He also added that the warlord’s militants include foreign fighters of several nationalities, which is a ‘clear violation of the agreements made by the 5+5 joint military commission’.
The commission made the removal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya a mandatory milestone for peacebuilding efforts. They were expected to be assembled in Tripoli and Benghazi, and then taken out of the country via a coastal road.
Several sources previously confirmed that the Russian Wagner Group and Sudanese Janjaweed mercenaries, who have been fighting alongside warlord Haftar’s illegal militias, are still present in large numbers in Sirte and Jufra as they had been spotted digging trenches and setting up anti-aircraft systems from western Sirte to Ras Lanuf and Jufra.
On the other hand, Russian media outlets unveiled details about the movement of a heavy anti-aircraft system, the Serbian LRSVM Morava system, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to warlord Haftar, adding that the UAE owned the modern Serbian anti-aircraft systems and it had transported them to Haftar’s militias in Libya.
Russian media also pointed out that the LRSVM Morava systems had been seen in military manoeuvres completed by the so-called Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade of Haftar’s militia.
The UAE has been one of the main supporters and sponsors of Haftar and his militias. Abu Dhabi has supplied him with advanced weaponry systems in violation of the UN arms embargo.
A UN report previously revealed that the UAE supplied Haftar with the Russian-made advanced air defence systems, Pantsir S-1s, which were installed at the al-Jufra base near the town of Gharyan.
Haftar’s militias rely heavily on Emirati air power which includes the alleged deployment of Chinese-made drones, Wing Loong II. They have been used during attacks on the UN-backed government in Tripoli, as well as in the killing of 26 unarmed cadets at a military academy in Libya’s capital in January 2020.
Questioning the fate of the agreement reached in the last meeting of the 5+5 joint military commission, Daraa mentioned that Haftar’s militias are carrying out simultaneous deployments, stating that he did not yet know the exact target of these deployments.
Forces of the UN-backed GNA have repeatedly declared a military movement towards Sirte, which was controlled by Haftar’s militia at the beginning of this year. After restoring the southern suburbs of Tripoli and the city of Tarhunah at the beginning of last June, the internationally recognised government’s forces headed toward Sirte before stopping at its outskirts amid international pressures to prevent a military confrontation there.
On 19 November, Abdul-Hadi Daraa told Anadolu Agency that the Libyan Army forces are still stationed in their positions and are closely monitoring all the movements of armed mercenaries inside the city of Sirte.