Following the rise of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Libya, France and some of its allies – including the US and the UK – provided support to local forces. Some of these groups were those from the Libyan city of Misrata, who were aligned (albeit belatedly and conditionally) with the GNA, but some support – particularly from the French – also went to the LNA who have maintained a strong stance against the GNA, the internationally recognised government in Libya.
By working with these local groups rather than going through the GNA, these countries weakened the legitimacy of the GNA and emboldened rival groups. They showed how little [the GNA] was actually able to deliver to the forces on the ground in terms of weapons, money or political support. As a result, the GNA has continued to lack any real coalition of political and armed groups backing it and while some militias have mobilised against Haftar, it remains unclear how many will stay allied with the GNA once the immediate fighting has stopped.
Even amidst the recent violence, contradictory national policies have hindered concerted international efforts to stem the violence. France stopped an EU statement, calling for a ceasefire, from mentioning Haftar and the US (as well as Russia) said it could not agree to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Haftar. In fact, according to the White House account of the conversation, President Trump also went as far as to publicly praise the general's “significant role in fighting terrorism.” In doing so, both countries are providing tacit approval for the general’s policies and actively applying diplomatic pressure to prevent international condemnation of his actions.
As the international community seeks to stem the ongoing violence, it must take stock of the devastating impact of French (and to some extent US and UK) policy towards Libya. Not only have these policies stymied progress but they have also exacerbated tensions and instability within an already fragile political situation. Strongmen cannot provide stability in the long-term, the sooner we learn this the sooner we stop perpetuating instability and violence in the places we intervene. The international community must urgently reassess the operations of countries like France in Libya, which have emboldened General Haftar – potentially to the detriment of regional security.
On July 27, two Ukrainian Il-76TDs - UR-CMC & UR-CRP cargo air planes were destroyed at al-Jufrah Air Base in central Libya by a Government of National Accord (GNA) UAV strikes. The drones are believed to be from Turkish origin. The 2 transport cargoes belonged to an unspecified cargo company based overseas and were used by the Libyan national Army (LNA) for logistic support.
These kind of cargo planes are widely believed to be used by the LNA to smuggle armament into Libya supplied mainly by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Haftar forces despite the ongoing arms embargo on both warring factions in the conflict. Both sides are known to be employing drones provided by foreign allies, as evidenced by the widely recorded UAE-supplied drone strikes conducted by the LNA, and in turn, the use of Turkish-made drones by the GNA, with the latest proof being the crash of an GNA support Turkish UAV in Aziziyah, 30 kilometres south of Tripoli on July 29.
These violations to foreign intervention have continued to take place despite the rare statement issued by France, Britain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the United States and Italy on July 16 calling for an immediate end of hostilities around the Libyan capital.
In the communique they “reiterate their deep concern about ongoing hostilities in Tripoli, call for an immediate de-escalation and halt to the current fighting, and urge the prompt return to the UN-mediated political process. There can be no military solution in Libya. Persistent violence has claimed nearly 1,100 lives, displaced more than 100,000, and fuelled a growing humanitarian emergency. The ongoing confrontation has threatened to destabilise Libya’s energy sector, and exacerbated the tragedy of human migration in the Mediterranean.”