On April 27th, Libya National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced that the country is to be led by the military.
Among other repercussions, U.S. mainstream media discovered the greatest one – this could give Russia “the upper hand,” if Haftar’s forces take control of the country’s oil-rich Eastern part.
Since Moammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011, and then the UN-supported Government of National Accord has been left enforcing its power through employing various militant groups, the Libyan National Army was the only one purging terrorist elements from various settlements throughout the country and returning normality to Libyans’ lives.
Of course, Haftar couldn’t have achieved any of this without the help of the mythical Russian Wagner PMC.
“They’re acting out on U.S. strategic interests in North Africa, but at the same time, doing it at a low cost, and if they mess up, then the Kremlin has plausible deniability,” an anonymous defense official told the Washington Examiner.
“They are likely banking on that if they come out on the winning side, that they’ll have access to lucrative port and mineral extraction deals, as well as have influence over a future government of Libya,” he added.
If Haftar was successful, Russia could allegedly benefit from a “whole host of economic and geopolitical advantages,” according to an unnamed senior defense official.
“It’s really about access in Libya for Russia, having access to the ports, to the oil, having a reason to be in the Eastern Med.,” the official told the Washington Examiner.
“When we talk about Russia, we have to be specific that it’s really the military contractors from Russia, the Wagner Group are there, and it’s really not the Russian government, the Russian military, that is in Libya,” he clarified. “When Russia is pressed by the United Nations on their influence and impact in Libya, they’re quick to say that they are not really present there.”
Ever since US African Command pulled its presence from Libya back in April 2019, Russia has been allegedly strengthening its presence there.
This is the opinion of Kimberly Marten, chairwoman of the political science department at Barnard College.
“There have been reports that they are people who are sharpshooters,” she said of the elite Wagner mercenaries operating on behalf of Haftar in Libya. “[They] have really been the pointy end of the stick, making a big difference in what Haftar is able to do.”
According to her Wagner is training military personnel, but could also be protecting oil fields.
“Libya is certainly a source of a lot of oil. A lot of that oil is located in locations where Haftar’s troops are based,” she said. “So, if we’re looking at an underlying Russian economic interest, it may end up being similar to what appears to be the underlying economic interest in Syria. It’s petroleum.”
The mythical PMC has been active in Libya since at least 2018, according to anonymous claims. There are even reports that in late 2019, Saudi Arabia funded more than 2,000 Wagner mercenaries to take and capture Tripoli, but it failed.
US leaving Libya was harmful to its interests in the region.
“By us not having a military presence in Libya, I mean, in a partner-building capacity or whatever, that does put us really far behind,” the senior defense official said. “From a military perspective, going back in would allow us to be engaged in training, as well as some U.S. influence on the activities within the government of Libya, as well as allows us to keep track of ISIS Libya and other groups.”
The senior defense official said that Russia’s presence in Libya is even more dangerous than the threat posed by ISIS remnants operating in the south of the country.
“We believe that there will be a need in the future, an opportunity for us to get back into Libya again, but it’s a little difficult to answer that given the current crisis ongoing there and uncertainties that we’re seeing in Libya,” he said.
With Russia supporting Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya and the U.S. supporting the U.N. recognized government in Tripoli, a military conflict between the U.S. and a thinly veiled Russian force depends on one man.
“That could be a place where U.S. and Russian forces come into conflict with each other,” Kimberly Marten said. “I think the big question here is, just how risk acceptant is Putin going to get?”
So, yes, the underlying issue in Libya was discovered, the legendary Wagner PMC and Russia is, once again, the most dangerous party, far surpassing ISIS terrorists who carry out frequent attacks on civilians and troops alike.