The labyrinth known as Libya – TTG

When we last visited Libya, we saw the demise of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi at the hands of various Libyan rebel forces. Those videos are now tagged with a graphic content warning on YouTube. His gruesome death with a knife up his arse, a bullet in his head and his carcass on display in a Misrata grocer’s freezer should have been a warning of what was to come. Even Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, on the day of his capture issued a strong warning to his captors about Libya’s new radical leaders and the risk of internal divisions. Of course he was only talking about particular Islamist leaders among the rebels. Even he didn’t foresee the danger of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Those jihadists had their moment, but neither of the current warring factions in Libya have any use for them. At least there’s that.

Ah yes. How could I forget Benghazi. We all remember the killing of Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 and the ensuing four years of Congressional investigations. But that’s another story.  

Some time after the killing of Ambassador Stevens, the USG started developing plans to begin rebuilding a new Libyan Army starting in 2015. It definitely would have been a much tougher mission than rebuilding the Lebanese Army in 1983. It would have taken an entire SF Group and various supporting elements fully deployed for several years. Given our existing deployments at the time, I doubt this mission ever got past the initial planning stage… if that far. If we were at all serious about this endeavor, we should have started planning before the first American bomb fell on Qadaffi’s forces.


Now back to reality. In Oct 2013 Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, the first post Qadaffi prime minister, was kidnapped for a few hours by a militia thus proving the inability of the Tripoli government to control the militias and rule Libya. In June 2013 the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), another militia, declared the eastern Libyan province of Barqa’s independence from Tripoli. The PFG, a former government security force, had 17,000 fighters, most of the oil and the oil terminal facilities. This was a significant development to say the least. In March 2014 the PFG sold it’s first shipment of oil to North Korea, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was voted out of office over his failure to control rebel militias across the country and in particular over the moves of the PFG. The chaos deepened. 

The Government of National Accord (GNA) was formed under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as a result of a UN backed agreement signed in Skhirat, Morroco in December 2015 in the midst of what we now call the Second Libyan Civil War. Kalifa Haftar was made commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in March 2015. By the end of that year, shortly after the establishment of the al-Sarraj government, Haftar openly split from the GNA and bombed the Mitiga Airport in Tripoli. In response, the GNA issued a warrant for the arrest of Haftar. This was not a hasty decision by Haftar. He began the process of secretly building his army in early 2014 through a series of “town hall” meetings throughout Libya. Thus began the current phase of the Second Libyan Civil War. Now there were two distinct warring sides rather than an infinite number of militias fighting with each other.  

But what of the Islamicists, the truly hard core jihadis aligning themselves with al-Qaeda and ISIL? Libya’s chaos was certainly fertile ground for their blossoming. They were blossoming. However, they had their detractors. Haftar is an avowed anti-Islamicist. He hates them and vows to rid Libya of all of them including the Muslim Brotherhood. The toleration of some Islamicists in the GNA was one of his reasons for setting off on his own. Well, that and his own strong desire to rule Libya. He sought to overthrow Qadaffi long before the 2011 civil war, usually under CIA auspices. He is a dual US-Libyan citizen. He may be still eligible to vote in Virginia. Nevertheless, he does tolerate the support of a few Islamicist militias in the ranks of the LNA. Hey, a gun’s a gun.

Despite Haftar’s protestations, the GNA is not a haven for the Islamicists. From May to Dec 2016 the GNA battled and defeated ISIL in and around Sirte, even while battling Haftar’s LNA. AFRICOM provided the GNA with substantial air support from August to December from the 22nd MEU aboard the USS Wasp and USS San Antonio. Close to 500 airstrikes from Harriers, attack helicopters and drones killed an estimated 800 to 900 ISIL jihadis. Two B-2 bombers struck ISIL camps south of Sirte in Jan 2017 killing another 90 ISIL militants. I don't remember hearing about this in 2016. Must have been something else going on here dominating the news.

With material support from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Haftar’s LNA enjoyed increasing military success. The PFG began their off and on alignment with Haftar giving him control over eastern Libya and the oil. The LNA extended its control to the Tunisian border and appeared ready to march on Tripoli. In December 2017, Kalifa Haftar declared the Shkirat Agreement null and void. His dream of ruling Libya seemed within his grasp.  

The LNA began the offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019 heavily supported and supplied by the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Those Pantsir S1 air defense systems recently being taken out by Turkish drones were supplied by the UAE beginning in June 2019. The UAE also supplied Chinese drones. Oddly enough the GNA also received support from both Israel and, to a much lesser extent, Iran. Both France and Israel have technical experts supporting the GNA on the ground.

Russia didn’t come in until after Haftar visited Moscow in June 2019 and agreed to host two Russian military bases in Libya. What would these bases mean to Moscow? Moscow may be looking for permanent access to a North African port or base, with influence over Mediterranean sea routes and to the entrance to the Suez. Moscow does appear to be getting much closer to Egypt. Perhaps more importantly, Haftar promised oil and reconstruction contracts to Moscow in exchange for support. Moscow doesn’t need Haftar to retake Tripoli and the rest of Libya. Their goal may be to get international sanctions against Haftar’s LNA lifted with a defacto or official recognition of a partitioning of Libya. They must also convince or coerce Haftar into accepting this outcome.

On the other hand, Russia’s attitude towards both the GNA and LNA may be purely transactional. It matters not who rules Libya as long as someone rules it and everyone, including Russia, can get back to business. Lavrov’s statement after a 3 June 2020 meeting in Moscow with the GNA’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Sayala and member of the Presidential Council Ahmed Mitig to discuss recent developments in the country, including the return of Russian companies "once the situation stabilized" reinforces this transactional policy. Haftar hoped Russia would actively intervene on his behalf as they did for Assad in Syria. I wonder if Haftar has now realized that Moscow doesn’t give a rat’s ass wheter he ends up as Libya’s new strongman or in retirement back in Virginia.  

This Russian support to Haftar has been indirect and primarily through the Wagner Group. A substantial part of this “Wagnerian” support has been Russian technical and maintenance personnel along with a smaller number of fighters. Wagner began supporting Haftar’s LNA in 2017. An interesting and more recent part of Wagner’s support to the LNA has been the recruitment and training of former Syrian jihadis/rebels who have reconciled with Damascus. According to a recent Moscow Times report, these fighters reached Libya via at least 33 flights operated by Damascus-based private Syrian company Cham Wings Airlines since the start of this year. They numbered less than 2,000. Russia supports this ongoing and expanding Wagner program in Syria. 

On 26 May 2020, AFRICOM made an unusually public announcement of the arrival of fourteen Russian MIG-29 fighters and SU-24 fighter-bombers at Libya’s al-Jufra airbase. These unmarked aircraft flew from Russia over Iran to Syria and on to Libya. Russia publicly denied they were Russian. AFRICOM’s concern was that Russia was aiming to establish a military presence on Europe’s southern flank. It’s my opinion that AFRICOM just doesn’t want any competitors on the continent. In response to this Russian move, AFRICOM is seriously considering sending the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) to Tunisia. I was wondering what those new brigades were going to do. We’ve already spent over a billion dollars on the Tunisian military since 2011.

Turkey began supplying the GNA with weapons, supplies and fighters in January 2020. The pace has increased in recent months. Most notable was the influx of up to 13,000 repurposed Syrian jihadis to the Tripoli government by Erdogan. Erdogan is paying a premium salary to these jihadis to encourage them to fight for the GNA. In the last few months, Turkey has shipped loads of heavy weapons to GNA forces. The weapons included US-made M60 battle tanks, BMC Kirpi mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, ACV-15 armored personnel carriers and even T-122 Sakarya multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). This is a self-propelled 122mm, 40 barrel MLRS with a 40 km range. Undoubtedly there are Turkish trainers in this mix. On 9 June Turkey sent a frigate to the waters off Sirte in support of the current GNA military offensive. This frigate is an updated version of the U.S. Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry Class 1 guided missile frigates, and is primarily designed for air defense.

Turkey is also supplying a large number of drones, both reconnaissance and strike, to the GNA. These drones have been particularly effective, taking out several LNA (or Wagner) manned Pantsir S1 systems in recent weeks. I would argue that the drones were more important to the GNA military that  all those battle hardened Syrian jihadis now fighting for the Tripoli government. Turkey have developed a robust drone capability as a centerpiece of their growing military equipment sector. These drones are especially effective in Libya due to the wide open geography of the land. You just can’t hide and if your air defense capability is not up to snuff, your forces are toast against these drones. That’s the predicament Haftar’s forces now find themselves in.

The recent support provided by Turkey to the GNA has proven far more effective and far less ambivalent than Russia’s support to the LNA. This became evident when GNA forces retook the al-Watiya airbase west of Tripoli and near the Tunisian border earlier this year. Haftar’s forces held this base since 2015. The GNA forces then launched a counteroffensive on 3 June 2020 against the LNA forces south of Tripoli retaking Tripoli Airport and Tarhuna by 5 June. GNA forces were also fighting in Sirte by 5 June although an LNA counteroffensive has stalled the GNA here.

So what’s in this for Erdogan? Certainly the GNA’s political and religious predilections are more in line with Ankara than Haftar’s. I’m also pretty sure Erdogan sees Haftar as nothing more than a CIA asset. Erdogan also wants to have a say in what happens to Libyan oil and any deposits in Libyan waters. More importantly, as I see it, Erdogan's intervention harks back to his dream of a new Ottoman Empire of which Libya was once part. That ring still calls out to him.

So where do we Americans stand on Libya today? The unpredictable Trump administration has certainly been fickle in Libya, backing al-Sarraj’s government but also expressing support for Haftar’s campaign against Tripoli. In April the US joined Russia in blocking a United Kingdom-backed resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, soon after Haftar began his offensive to take Tripoli. Is this our version of Russia’s transactional approach? Perhaps. Trump’s change in position came after a 15 April 2020 phone call he made to Haftar. I’m comfortable with saying oil figured into that conversation. So our policy is disjointed with State and Defense still supporting the UN-backed GNA and the Trump administration now tilted toward’s Haftar’s LNA. 

Trump’s part in this is curious. Back in 2011, he declared that he was “only interested in Libya if we get the oil.” He told the Wall Street Journal, “Without the oil, I have no interest and we shouldn’t be there.” That statement is remarkably consistent with his stance on staying in Syria. In April 2016 he declared ISIS was smuggling Libyan oil. He continued, “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week, selling Libya oil and you know what? We don’t blockade, we don’t bomb, we don’t do anything about it. It’s almost as if our country doesn’t even know what’s happening, which could be a fact and could be true.” All the experts dismissed Trump’s statement saying there’s no evidence that this was happening. Well Trump was absolutely right.  We learned this in late 2017. How was Trump so prescient? It may have been through his old business partner Pavel Fuchs. Fuchs is a Ukrainian oligarch whose son-in-law is Ma’sud Abdelhafid, the grandson of Muammar Qaddafi’s henchman who bore the same name. Fuchs and Abdelhafid were smuggling Libyan oil on behalf of ISIS. It’s no wonder Trump thinks he knows more than the IC. He certainly did in this case. 

Today the military situation is far different than it was a few months ago when it appeared Haftar was about to take Tripoli, but for now it remains a military stalemate. What may change this is Putin’s recent pulling back of its support to Haftar and Erdogan’s increasingly robust support to the GNA’s military forces. Haftar is now calling for a ceasefire. He went to Egypt to seek Sisi’s help in this endeavor. He knows his shit’s weak. How Haftar is spinning his current situation is good for a laugh. This is how Al Masdar News reported the announcement. “The spokesperson for the Libyan Army, Major General Ahmed Al-Mismari, said in a press statement today: “Based on the approval of the General Command of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces to resume its participation in the Ceasefire 5 + 5 committee supervised by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya … the General Command declares that it is relocating its units outside Tripoli with the condition that the other side commit to stopping the violence.” He continued: “In case of non-compliance with this, the General Command will resume operations and suspend its participation in the 5 + 5 ceasefire committee.” Sounds like the tale of the fox and the grapes to me.

But both the GNA and Erdogan aren’t buying Hafter’s sudden change of heart. They will accept a ceasefire only if Haftar is gone. Without him a negotiated settlement under UN auspices is a real possibility. Without him, more of the militias will seek reconciliation with Tripoli. If Haftar is smart and cares more for Libya than for his dreams of leading her, he will retire back to his northern Virginia home. I’m sure he could find a job at a think tank or maybe open a good restaurant. Time will tell.



Note: This is not the whole story, just an overview. I spent several weeks reading and watching to get this far. There’s plenty more story there. I didn’t even mention the Tuaregs in the south. They still control the borderlands down there. I have no idea if they have a place in the negotiations for the future of Libya. They should. 

This entry was posted in Libya, Russia, The Military Art, TTG, Turkey. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The labyrinth known as Libya – TTG

  1. Fredw says:

    What is your take on the Berbers of the Nafusa mountains? Are they significant? Or even participating in all this? As I recall, they were similarly invisible in 2011 until they suddenly were the ones cutting the highway to Tunisia.

  2. Mcohenmc says:

    You forgot the italians

  3. Fred says:

    Thanks for the write up TTG. I’m a bit confused with this comment: “with State and Defense still supporting the UN-backed GNA and the Trump administration now tilted toward’s Haftar’s LNA. Trump’s part in this is curious.”
    Last I looked Trump was still president and sets the national policy. If State and Defense are supporting some other policy it sounds like more “resistance” to the constitutionally elected government; it would also shed a lot of light on Mattis and now Petraeus making overly political, if not downright disrespectful or even seditious, public comments meant to damage the current president.
    “Fuchs and Abdelhafid were smuggling Libyan oil on behalf of ISIS. ”
    So these two were aiding a terrorist organization the Russians were fighting, aren’t in a Russian jail yet, and oh, are connected to Trump. My that was way less than 6 degrees of seperation. Was everyone out there trucking oil across the border for sale inside NATO ally Turkey doing so “on behalf of ISIS” or were some of them just out to make a buck?

  4. Fredw
    The Berbers are in a better position now, even with the ongoing civil war, that they were under Qadaffi. It is a situation of benign neglect where the Berbers now speak their language and govern themselves. They are organized under the Amazigh Supreme Council headquartered in Tripoli. Their goal is to negotiate more autonomy for their regions under the existing UN negotiations. They support the GNA and reject Hafter.

  5. Mcohenmc,
    The Italians have supported the GNA, as well as the UN agreements and ongoing negotiation frameworks. They want an end to the civil war and an end to the flow of refugees coming from that civil war. They haven’t committed arms or personnel to the GNA.

  6. Fred,
    To the best of my knowledge, Trump has failed to issue comprehensive guidance to Defense and State concerning Libya. He just told our UN Ambassador to not support the UN call for a ceasefire. Without clear policy guidance, there’s nothing to resist, just confusion and cross purposes. Hell of a way to run a railroad. To be fair, Trump has been up to his ass in alligators this year. I doubt he’s given Libya much thought.
    Trump knows a lot of shady and crooked characters like Fuchs. There’s no crime in having wealthy friends in low places. I’m pretty sure Trump knows where a lot of the bodies are buried. I’m damned sure where a lot of dirty money is buried.

  7. Grumete Elora Danan says:

    For being juts an overview, this is a hell of a report, TTG.
    Good job.
    For what Elora is concerned, she would not mind the Russians staying in Southern Europe…she does not like monopolies…
    Agree that the Tuaregs, as original people of the desert, never dual citizens, should have their autonomous region country. May be they could rule in the Acacus Mountains, as it falls full in their territory.
    The Russians should manage well with the Tuareg, who are smart business people…

  8. Babak makkinejad says:

    The UN process will fail.
    Just as it did in South Sudan, yet another ungovernable territory.
    Sudan, Libya, and Afghanistan are excellent examples of Hobbesian anarchy.
    You need capable, smart, brutal, and ruthless like Tokugawa or Aqha Muhammad Khan to impose order and start the process of state formation again.
    EU and US killed Libya and now the hyenas, Turkey and Russia, have moved in to contest over the carcass of Libya with them.
    The EU Troika already have helped themselves to the wealth of Libyan state in their banks and companies, now others are moving in.

  9. Upstater says:

    Thank you BHO and HRC and the vigorous RTP policy (also hats off to Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron). Citizens of the US, EU and most of all Libya are eternally grateful for your wisdom and principles!

  10. Babak makkinejad says:

    The applucation of such ideas as autonomy to Tuareg or the Berber as well as other non-European people is an exercise in fantasy as well as in obfuscation.
    Look at the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. It consists of 2 tribal dictatorships – Barzani and Talibani – based on feudalitic patronage networks.
    An “Autonomous” Berber region will be an obscurantist medievalist hermit fiefdom dedicated to the proposition that: “Change is Evil”
    Only Euro-Americans, raised on a steady diet of Nobel Savage and Ignornace could find anything to recommend itself in that sort of arrangement.
    If you be a woman, by the end of fifth grade you be married off to your cousin or an old man who could buy you from your father.
    The centralized creole governments of Algeria, Libya (before its death), and Tunisia are the best hope for young people.
    Tribal leaders are lying to you to bend you to their will. And so many of you are so naive and so gullible to fall for that.

  11. Mcohenmc says:

    The tiger in niger,the kumbaya in Libya,the blood and oil in the soil
    Watch the video footage of the sf soldier to get an idea of the ,the

  12. Leith says:

    TTG – “So what’s in this for Erdogan?”
    In addition to your comments on Erdogan’s obsession with Libyan oil and his Ottomania, he is also there to support the 1- to 1.4 million Libyans of full or partial Turkish ethnicity. Almost kind of like a Turkish Sudetenland. Head of the GNA, Sarraj, has Turkish ancestry as do most leaders in his government.

  13. Mcohenmc says:

    Oil in niger
    Possibility of oil reserves completely replacing the middle East.
    Has its own refinery.Where there is oil,there is isis.

  14. Leith says:

    Babak – “Tribal leaders are lying to you to bend you to their will. And so many of you are so naive and so gullible to fall for that.”
    True that. Interesting that it was agitprop and proselytizing by the Libyan Turks and the Arab Sennusi that led to EU/US involvement against Qaddafi.

  15. FkDahl says:

    How can Italy, or any European country, expect that the flow of refugees to stop if Erdogan’s ally comes to power?! Erdogan will just have two different taps to turn on and off.
    Secondly: how likely is it that Egypt goes in? They have moved forces close to the border – though road/supply wise there is only the coastal road I guess ?

  16. johnf says:

    Thanks, TTG, for a magnificent and lucid article.
    Great to see SST getting back to what it used to be about – military matters, especially in the Middle East.
    (I’d also welcome an expert piece on the effect Covid 19 is having on various ME battlefields. In The Yemen it looks catastrophic.

  17. English Outsider says:

    Babak – you are returning to your theme that the patchwork societies of the Middle East, consisting of a multiplicity of tribal and ethnic units, can best be governed by a “strong man” who is able if necessary to rule by force.
    At its best this results in almost a federal system, with the ruling authority in the centre balancing out the rival claims of the various sub-units and ensuring that no one sub-unit can dominate or oppress the others. It also implies leaving the sub-units alone as much as possible, not interfering with them as long as they do not dispute the central authority.
    They have to be left alone because all stable societies are based on consent, even if only on consent by default. If consent of a sub-unit is expressed through the “feudalistic patronage system” you mention, which I take to mean rule via tribal elders or gang bosses, then it is implicit in such a structure that the regional or tribal customs of that sub-unit may not be challenged.
    That means that the marriage customs of the sub-unit have to be left alone. To Western eyes this seems barbaric. You mention the antiquated marriage customs of some Libyan tribes, customs that lead to the unequal treatment of women. We see similar customs in, say, Balochistan. Disturb such customs and the coherence of the tribal unit is threatened, with all the disruption of the status quo that that leads to. The central “strong man” interferes in such matters at his peril.
    Is there not therefore an inconsistency in your argument? On the one hand you advocate a means of governing Middle Eastern countries that goes with the grain of these societies perhaps more effectively than does the imposition of a Western style mass democracy.
    On the other you take almost a Western R2P position and seem to advocate the suppression of those tribal customs that we in the West see as wrong.
    Am I correct in seeing this as an inconsistent approach?

  18. English Outsider says:

    TTG – thanks for a great summary of the situation in Libya. I printed it out – it’s so complicated I’m damned if I can remember who’s doing what or who’s backing whom from one moment to the next.
    I hope you’ll also be able to return to the situation in Idlib soon. I’ve been looking glumly at this stuff about sanctioning Syria –
    – from which it seems we’re continuing to turn the screws on the country.

  19. turcopolier says:

    If you don’t like my editorial policy you can go to … Actually I am going to ban you for bitching about my policy.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    English Outsider:
    The inconsistency is not in my statements, it is in your governments’ and your own internal idea of what a Just political dispensation could be an how it is created.
    Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel created modern Italy through blood and sword, let us not kid ourselves here.
    Bismarck, a non-Prussian, used the sword of the Prussia to unify Germany.
    Mexico is a creation of Spain, again through blood and sward and Chile’s statehood has much to do with the constant war by Spaniards against the natives – in a very similar fashion to the United States.
    You want Democracy, Improvement in Human Rights – including those of females – and increased in Freedom in all these non-Diocletian areas of the world.
    Well, you cannot get it – you cannot shoehorn other societies into your Western European patterns.
    Specifically Muslim societies: They are not English Protestants, for them, Liberty and License are identical. They do not have anything like the English Common Law. The only thing that they have ever experienced has been the lawlessness and attendant brutality of kings and rulers who would make Henry the Eight look like a Paragon of the Humanistic Just Ruler. The statement: “England expects everyone to do his duty.” will leave them unmoved.

  21. Fred says:

    “… you cannot shoehorn other societies into your Western European patterns.”
    So immigration is not our strength, and not being from a western European origin you’ll be leaving Michigan soon, bound for your ancestral homeland?

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Life is tough all over, get used to it.

  23. English Outsider says:

    I fully agree with you, Babak. I’m no fan of R2P and firmly believe – ” … you cannot shoehorn other societies into your Western European patterns.”
    In which case the marriage customs of those other societies have to be respected. Above you imply that respecting those customs was undesirable – “If you be a woman, by the end of fifth grade you be married off to your cousin or an old man who could buy you from your father.”
    That’s the inconsistency I was interested in. It’s a live issue in Europe as well, of course. As the European countries become balkanised these are issues we have to address here too. How far do we take “live and let live”, not in other countries where we have by rights no business interfering, but in our own?

  24. Tidewater says:

    English Outsider,
    Surely you must be aware of the law in Saudi Arabia in these matters? A wife cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    English Outsider:
    Under the influence of the living example of the Western Civilization, non-Western people are mending their ways.
    However, like Tennyson says:
    “This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
    A rugged people…”
    is one of centuries.

  26. English Outsider says:

    I’d forgotten you did irony, Babak. But maybe another stout Victorian spoke truer than he knew (corrected for a minor geographical error) –
    And not by eastern windows only,
    When daylight comes, comes in the light,
    In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
    But eastward, look, the land is bright.

  27. JohninMK says:

    Another factor may well be finance. Erdogan has a desperate need for $ as many loans in Turkey are denominated in them.
    If, as you say TTG, he is paying good money to the Syrian Terrorists ST he is certainly charging the GNA a premium price for them and his military. He is currently flying a C-130 in every day.
    It is a multi faceted operation. He has moved large numbers of his own troops into Idlib (paid in Turkish Money TM) to defend that territory and especially protecting the ST’s families whilst paying a combination of $ and TM to the ST. Making a big $ gain on the transaction.
    He now owns the GNA, without him the LNA would have taken over Tripoli.
    But the LNA have financial power too. They control Libyan oil exports but the GNA, as the recognised Government, controls the bank accounts. That is why, in an attempt to starve the GNA and hence Turkey of money, the LNA have stopped exports. The GNA have to get that money flowing again as Turkey must be sucking their bank accounts dry. The pressure was on.
    This could give the LNA rapid retreat last week a different slant. The LNA were up against the dug in GNA in Tripoli with both sides getting nowhere but more GNA help arriving every day, an untenable situation. The LNA move, with loss of gear but few casualties, sucked the GNA out into open desert and small settlements, all the way to the outskirts of the major LNA port/oil terminal of Sirte.
    There the LNA suddenly stopped, turned and fought. Then, for the first time, in came the recently arrived Mig-29s in CAS mode and within a couple of days the overoptimistic GNA were 80 miles back, reversing hard towards Misrata suffering heavy casualties. A cunning trap?
    With the LNA’s control of the air and its now decent aircraft ranging all over the battlefield at will, the failing stalemate and increasing Turkish power are no longer as significant.
    Perhaps now that there is more balanced power on the ground we will see all the outside pressure get the two sides into an agreement.

  28. Fred says:

    Thanks for the wise advice. Life is tougher in your former homeland, doesn’t sound like you plan on returning.

  29. Babak makkinejad says:

    Boy you have a thin skin.
    Of course life is tougher in Iran.
    But you know what? Iranians are tougher still.

  30. Leith says:

    John in MK –
    Who is piloting those LNA MIG-29s? And also the SU-24s that TTG mentions? There are reports that 35 LNA pilots were trained at the Egyptian Air Force Academy. And just in the last day or so some Dassault Rafale fighters have been doing CAP over Libya. France denies the are French but Egypt has Rafales. The Emiratis also have some air assets flying for the LNA. They are militarized cropdusters, Air Tractor AT-802.
    On the GNA side they have had to use mercenary pilots: Ukrainian, Ecuadoran, and at least one American (who initially claimed to be Portuguese after he was shot down & captured a few years ago). They are also using Ukrainian and Ecuadoran technicians for aircraft maintenance. And Turkey may not just supply drones. is reporting the Turkish AF yesterday conducted an 8-hour long air drill to Libya to demonstrate that it could rapidly and easily deploy F-16s and early warning aircraft to the country if needed.
    What about the AFRICOM drone base near al-Wigh in Libya, is that still active or been reactivated? al-Wigh is in the deep south near the borders with Chad and Niger. It is within the red area on TTG’s map that is under control of the Tabu (Toubou) militia.

  31. mcohen says:

    Good article.i made a 3d map of the whole situation.much appreciated.the timeline going back 7 years is almost complete.

  32. JamesT says:

    I’m starting to think that drones on the battlefield are as important as the Germans putting radios into tanks. If I was Putin my main interest would be in using the battlefield as a test laboritory for Russian kit against western kit.
    And I have trouble believing that the Turkish drones are performing so well without Israeli help.

  33. JamesT,
    Don’t sell the Turks short. They have a large and advanced military industrial sector. They don’t have a manned aircraft industry beyond some decent attack helicopters so they put a lot of effort into their drones.

  34. Leith says:

    TTG –
    Any insight on what is being discussed at the Russian/Turkish/Iranian summit in Istanbul? FM Lavrov & DM Shoigu just flew there as well as FM Zarif. I’m guessing that in addition to Idlib that Libya may have been on the agenda.

  35. Leith,
    I have no insights into those discussions, but I’m confident both Syria and Libya are subjects of those discussions.

  36. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Colonel and TTG:
    You two know a lot about ME issues.
    In his post referenced below, Sundance explicitly links the Muslim Brotherhood to the various Muslim radical cum terrorist groups in the ME.
    That was not my understanding.
    I thought the MB was/is a group that of course promoted Muslim principles, but that they specifically eschewed terrorism.
    If that is true, then what Sundance is pushing seems to me to be Zionist propaganda.
    (That would not surprise me, given how he goes out of his way to avoid discussing Jewish influence.)
    Anyhow, your thoughts on whether MB/terrorist links exist?
    (This is significant because of the influence Sundance has on the Right.)

  37. turcopolier says:

    Keith harbaugh
    The MB has long been the base from which violent jihadi groups have come. That is true of al-Qa’ida. The tradition goes all the way back to the assassinations of various Wafd Egyptian Party members and the British Commander of the Egyptian Army. The desire to be seen as a peaceful political party is cover.

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