Libya is not ready to go the Afghan way

Marianna Belenkaya

The Afghan experience of a sudden and largely ill-considered withdrawal of foreign forces from the country will not be repeated in Libya. This was made clear following the talks in Moscow between the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Libya, Sergei Lavrov and Najla Mangush. In addition, Russia has expressed its readiness to help the Libyans in resolving controversial security issues.

Foreign forces and mercenaries must necessarily be withdrawn from the territory of Libya, said Foreign Minister of this country Najla Mangush following talks in Moscow with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. At the same time, she stressed that such decisions should not lead “to a repetition of the negative lessons of some of our neighbors,” that is, one should not allow “an ill-considered withdrawal of troops and the country’s sliding into chaos.” Ms. Mangush did not say what kind of neighbors she was talking about, but the development of events in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the American military from there made an indelible impression on many Arab politicians and a lot has been discussed in recent days. According to the head of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the withdrawal of foreign forces from the republic should be “phased and synchronous.”

For the past six years, a dual power has reigned in Libya. Tripoli was home to the internationally recognized Government of Natio-nal Accord (GNA), and an equally legitimate House of Representatives sat in the e-ast, controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) un-der the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. At the end of 2019, Tripoli signed an agreement with Ankara on military cooperation. In the west of Libya, the Turkish military was stationed, as well as detachments of mercenaries from Syrian groups loyal to Turkey. With their help, the PNS was able to push the LNA forces back to the east from Tripoli. According to various sources, mercenari-es from Chad, Sudan, the sa-me Syria (but already from among the pro-Russian fo-rces) and PMC Wagner ac-ted on the side of the LNA. Egypt and the UAE also provided military assistance to the LNA. According to a permanent ceasefire agreement concluded in October, foreign forces were to leave Libya by January 23rd. However, there is no progress on this issue. According to UN data, at the beginning of June, about 20 thousand foreign soldiers and mercenaries remained in Libya. Despite the change of government in Tripoli this spring, Ankara considers all previously concluded agreements to be valid and is not going to withdraw its forces from Libyan territory. When signing the final communiqué of the international conference on Libya held in June in Berlin, the Turkish side insisted on a footnote about its dissenting opinion to the paragraph on the immediate withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries. Ankara stresses that the issue of “mercenaries and regular forces providing advice and training assistance” must be dealt with separately.

Last week, the Joint Military Committee of Libya (5 + 5), which includes representatives of both the LNA and Tripoli, announced an agreement “to implement an urgent plan to withdraw all foreign forces and mercenaries from the country.” Committee members called on the political authorities to freeze all existing military agreements with any country. In addition, they warned that disputes over the candidacy of the Minister of Defense could lead to a resumption of hostilities in the country. This caused a negative reaction from the pro-Turkish forces in the west of Libya. Thus, the chairman of the Supreme State Council (playing an advisory role) Khaled al-Mishri stressed that Turkish troops will not leave the country, since they are there at the behest of the Libyans. Representatives of the operational command in the Western region also condemned the committee’s decision. The Russian Foreign Minister entered into a polemic with supporters of the latter position on Thursday. Sergey Lavrov decided to state the Russian point of view in response to a question asked by Kommersant about how the agreement on the withdrawal of all foreign forces is being implemented, especially given the fact that Turkey refuses to discuss this issue, and other parties do not at all recognize their presence in Libya … “I would not argue that the Turks refuse and the other parties do not recognize their presence, ” the Russian minister said, referring to the documents of the Berlin conference and the decisions of the“ 5 + 5 ”committee. At the same time, he outlined his vision of what is happening in Libya: “When the fighting was still going on, one side – the government in Tripoli – requested military assistance in one part of the region. The second, no less legitimate side, the parliament in Tobruk, requested military assistance from other sources. It was thanks to the fact that the balance of military efforts was respected on the ground, including the efforts of the parties themselves and those who helped them, that it was possible to reach an agreement on a ceasefire. ” Now, according to the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, the withdrawal of troops should be carried out in such a way that at no stage an advantage is created on anyone’s side. Sergei Lavrov emphasized: “This is the main thing, and not attempts to divert the discussion towards talking about who is legitimate and who is illegitimate.”

Thus, Russia is ready to fully support the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, but this should be done by all forces at the same time and taking into account the current situation. Nobody wants a repetition of chaos similar to the Afghan one.

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