LNA forces loyal to Haftar claim they killed 16 Turkish soldiers in recent weeks of fighting. This is, according to Reuters News Agency, only a day after Turkey "acknowledged it had lost several 'martyrs' in the ongoing Libyan conflict.
A spokesman for Haftar's LNA said that the Turkish troops were killed in the GNA stronghold of Misrata, as well as in the fighting in Tripoli and in al-Falah, to the south.
For the first time, Turkish president Erdogan acknowledged Turkey's military role and that it sent Syrian militias to Libya: "we are there with our soldiers and our teams from the Syrian National Army. We continue the struggle there. We have several martyrs. In return, however, we neutralised nearly a hundred (of Haftar's) legionaries."
In addition to the 16 Turkish soldiers reportedly killed, Sky News Arabia TV reports another 100 Syrian mercenaries killed so far in Tripoli.
Turkish president Erdogan is accusing Russia of managing its interference in Libya “at the highest level”. Erdogan has long accused Russia of intervening in the Libyan conflict in support of Haftar and the LNA, through its operation of Wagner, a private military contractor. Erdogan supports the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli. The Kremlin has long denied it maintains a military presence in Libya, and that it has a connection to Wagner.
Speaking to a group of journalists, Erdogan reportedly showed a picture of Wagner’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin together with Russia’s defence minister and military chief. Erdogan said “they’re now directing Wagner there”, referring to Moscow, and yet “they still get up and say that they don’t have a relationship with it.” It was not clear to the Moscow Times, reporting on this story, to which picture Erdogan was referring, although there is a known photograph of Prigozhin with the defence chiefs and Haftar from 2018.
african union 55 members pledge to increase role in libya - back un process; offer to partake in peacekeeping role
The African Union is seeking a larger role in Libya. Wrapping up a 2 day summit in Addis Ababa, the 55 member states of the African Union pledged to push for peace in Libya and signified they seek a larger role. AU Peace and Security Council Chief, Smail Chergui, offered assistance to revive the UN-led peace process.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the new AU chairman, said that Libya (along with South Sudan) is one of two conflicts on the continent he wants to focus on ending during his tenure.
The AU has complained about being overlooked in international efforts to stabilise Libya. Chergui said AU could support peace if sides agreed to cease hostilities, offering to be part of any observer mission.
We recently reported on this site of the AU, and specifically Algeria and Tunisia, seeking to take on a greater role in the Libyan crisis. Aside from Egypt, and to a lesser extent Sudan and Chad, which send mercenaries to fight for Haftar and the LNA, the AU's memberships has remained largely neutral and sidelined, until recently, from the conflict.
The New York Times and Associated Press are reporting on Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamist elements among the nearly 5000 Syrian fighters sent to fight in Libya by Turkey. We reported this story just days ago as it was picked up by Libyan media, citing both LNA and a Syrian human rights monitoring group as sources. The GNA denied such claims, while Turkey has yet to confirm or deny reports that it is using Syrian mercenaries at all. Erdogan, so far, has been vague on this issue, referring to a “different team” that is not “from within our soldiers” as a “combat force”.
Turkey, through its military intelligence, has trained and funded Syrian fighters, bringing together various opposition groups to Assad under the Syrian National Army. It is from these that Turkey has enticed fighters to ship out to Libya to fight on behalf of the GNA. The fighters reportedly receive $2000 a month and the promise of Turkish citizenship, while their families are financially compensated if they die in Libya. Most are said to be ideologically apathetic and are signing on for the economic gains. We previously reported on this site that Turkish intelligence has taken motivating the Syrians by promising they will face Russians when in Libya.
Reports have ranged from 2000 to as many as 5000 Syrians currently in Libya, with dozens of them reported to be former Al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters. Turkey has a long history of aiding Islamist elements, including by relaxing border restrictions to allow their movement into Syria.
Some GNA commanders were concerned that the presence of such extremists would “tarnish” the GNA’s image, and causing it to lose support in the west and among Libyans.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has determined recently at least 130 such Islamist elements among the thousands of Syrians in Libya.
Algeria seeks a larger role in Libya’s peace process, but must jockey with other countries first. Algeria, Libya’s larger neighbour to the west, is seeking to re-establish its historic role as a leading and destabilising force in the region. Its new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in December, has already made concerted efforts at bringing together the warring sides, and halt the increased presence of foreign proxies on its own border.
Algeria, with its long history of being a French colony and its bloody struggle for independence, maintains a “dogged fixation on the primacy of sovereignty and the dangers of foreign intervention”, according to Simon Speakman Cordall in Al-Monitor. He writes that Algeria has always shown a strong commitment to preventing foreign interference in the region, especially since such efforts tend to go badly, and have negative repercussions for its own domestic security.
This will be a tough order, as Turkey, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Russia and France are all currently involved militarily in the conflict. Despite this, Cordall says Algeria has made some progress, such as in Berlin when it managed to get the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad, Mali and Niger together, and has recently suggested to the African Union it could host a national reconciliation forum.
As we reported just a few days ago on this site, Algeria has also suggested to the African Union to send troops to monitor and enforce a ceasefire. Algeria will however, have to navigate its regional rivalries, such as with Morocco, and Egypt, which backs the LNA.
Cordall points out that Algeria has a long and proud tradition of producing successful diplomats. That, combined with its neutrality in Libya (along with Morocco and Tunisia) can place in into a good position to increase its role and help bring some much needed stability to the region.
As reports of Turkish and UAE arms arriving in Libya continue to come in, Intelligence Online is reporting that Haftar’s LNA recently received a shipment of 6 Chinese Ch-4 drones from Jordan, a part of a number of contracts signed between the Kingdom and the LNA in recent weeks. In December, the UN reported that Jordan provided Haftar with armoured vehicles.
These are just the latest examples of foreign powers continuing to fuel the conflict in Libya.
Syrian militias told they will fight russians for motivation; gna denies claims of jihadist elements among syrian fighters
According to sources in the Syrian National Army, the opposition Syrian fighters backed by Turkey, Turkish intelligence, responsible for organising and training Syrian militias fighting in Libya, is telling Syrian militias they will fight Russians once in Libya, in order to boost motivation.
“There are Russians here….The Turks confirmed this to us, I wouldn’t even hurt a Libyan here. But if I find a Russian, I will put a stick up his ass,” said one Syrian fighter. The Syrians on the ground in Libya said they had not seen much action as of yet, and are awaiting Turkish forces and equipment. The SNA source went on to say, “of course, there are no Russian soldiers there.” Turkish intelligence is using the possibility of Russian fighters to motivate the Syrians, who have suffered under Russian bombardments in Syria. The SNA source continued, “but of course this is a lie, and Libya is not Syria. But these mercenaries believe whatever Turkey tells them”.
Turkey claims it sends Syrians, only Turkish military personnel in non-combatant roles to train GNA troops. International media and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report of over 4700 Syrian mercenaries from the SNA who have been sent Tripoli so far. On the other side, the LNA is backed by a number of international backers, and includes Russian and Sudanese mercenaries.
Related to this, the GNA denies reports in the international media that there are Islamist extremist elements within the Syrians coming to fight on their behalf, according to Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency. Media sources claim that among the over 4000 fighters, dozens have links to Jihadist groups.
The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said that the rival sides in the conflict have shown "genuine willingness" to strengthen the current truce into a more stable and long-lasting one. This seems to be a marked shift in tone from just a few days ago.
Salame, at the start of the UN-hosted ceasefire 5+5 talks in Geneva, said the "sides expressed their approval of the need to transform the truce into a permanent cease-fire agreement". Just a week ago, Bloomberg Africa points out, Salame remarked to the UN Security Council that the cease-fire was in "name only".
The current talks in Geneva are the latest in a series of international efforts to reach a power-sharing agreement and bring an end to 9 years of fighting. As agreed upon in Berlin, each side is represented by 5 senior military figures. Salame told reporters that the two sides were able to reach a resolution on some issues that affect oil production, especially the El-Sharara field, which has been under an LNA blockade and threatens Libya's economic stability.
Diplomatic sources in Algeria revealed that Algiers is pressuring the African Union to send forces to Libya to help enforce a ceasefire. The aim of this is reportedly to limit Turkish influence, which has increased as of late, in the neighbouring country. High level meetings, pushed by Algerian Prime Minister Djerad and Foreign Minister Boukadoum, were held in Republic of Congo recently to discuss this issue.
The African Union members are said to largely agree to this suggestion. The next step, according to the sources, would be to present the proposal to the two sides. However, Haftar does not have a close relationship with Algeria, whom he sees as “biased” in favour of the GNA, and may reject this.
Algeria is said to be seeking a way to increase its influence in Libya, with a goal to limit foreign interference. The AU force would work under UN auspices. Algeria has also offered to host reconciliation talks to end the ongoing conflict.
According to the pro-GNA Daily Sabah, LNA chief Khalifa Haftar announced over the weekend he will attend the Geneva meetings. This is, despite refusing to cooperate with the cease-fire previously.
One of the main outcomes of the Berlin conference (January 19) was a push by the UN and international powers that the GNA and LNA each nominate 5 representatives to participate in a “Joint Military Commission” to work out the details for a cease fire.
However, since Berlin, Haftar’s forces have reportedly intensified their offensive on Tripoli and Misrata, putting the continuation of the cease fire in doubt.