The UN-backed Libyan government, the GNA, or Government of National Accord, is pushing for a more robust American response to Russia’s backing of the Libyan rebels headed by General Khalifa Haftar who controls the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army. Hafter’s forces now control the eastern half of the country.
The GNA has accused Russia of sending hundreds of mercenaries of the infamous ‘Wagner Group’ run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, or ‘Putin’s Cook’ due to his plethora of military contracts including food preparation, to Libya to fight for Haftar against the GNA.
“The Russians succeeded in Syria, so they think they will be successful in Libya,” Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha told The Washington Times in November.
“This is a big concern for us now if the U.S. doesn’t act fast,” he said, referring to Moscow’s desire to establish a new warm water port on the Libyan coast on the Mediterranean to complement their facilities at Tartus, Syria.
With Russian mercenaries apparently now also backing Mr. Haftar, the conflict represents a mounting challenge for the U.S., which was already wary that jihadi terrorist groups, including potentially resurgent elements of the Islamic State group, could exploit the chaos in Libya, wrote The Washington Times.
“The U.S. delegation, representing a number of U.S. government agencies, underscored support for Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict against the will of the Libyan people,” the State Department said in a statement last month.
Russia has made the African continent a priority for its foreign policy goals which include acquiring access to natural resources such as oil and rare earth minerals, as well as monetary gains from exploiting such commodities.
The Wagner Group is now deployed in many African nations, mimicking its use in Syria and the Donbass region of East Ukraine.
The Trump administration seems to be listening as more forceful statements are released from the Department of State concerning the conflict.
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