In Bitter Confrontation With Haftar’s Supporters, Turkey Emerges Victorious In Libya

Fuad Muxtarlı Media Roundup 8 June 2020
In Bitter Confrontation With Haftar’s Supporters, Turkey Emerges Victorious In Libya

Maverick Gen Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has suffered another humiliating defeat in the hands of his rival on the same war-torn country.

The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) regained control of Tripoli International Airport from its opponent in the civil war. The loss of the airport comes two weeks after the LNA withdrew its troops out of sections of Tripoli, the nation’s largest city and the stronghold of the GNA. Haftar also lost the strategic al-Watiya military air base, some 78 miles southwest of the city.

However, months ago it seemed the LNA was just one step away from a final blow to its enemies since it is being backed by Arabs, France, Russia and even the USA. But Ankara has spoilt their game with its intervention, and it now appears that the disgraced general is on the verge of a humiliating defeat.

At this point, Haftar’s supporters have sustained irreparable financial and image damages. High hopes for economic benefits and geostrategic gains by Haftar’s insincere allies were watered down by Ankara’s determination. Libya’s new strongman has not succeeded in performing as a strongman, despite all kinds of support. The recent strikes of Turkish drones paralysed his avaricious mercenary, destroying one by one Russian-supplied Pantsir anti-aircraft missiles. Turkey has displayed capabilities of its new generation of drones both in Syria and now in Libya and this is a new type of warfare.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thoroughly changed the game, rescued Libyan Prime Minister Fayiz al-Saraj, previously viewed by many as a temporary figure.

Saraj in Ankara

Turkey and Libya agreed to further increase cooperation in eastern Mediterranean, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on June 4 at the meeting with the Libyan prime minister.

In remarks on a memorandum of understanding for maritime delimitation, Turkey and Libya signed last year, Erdoğan said.

“We agreed to develop new cooperation. We aim to improve our cooperation, including exploration and drilling,” the Turkish leader said this in a joint news conference with Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayyez al-Saraj.

“The support we provided will continue increasingly,” Erdoğan said, hailing the recent military success of the GNA forces. The Turkish leader also called for discussion of ways to lift embargos on Libya. “We are on the same page on the issue of the continuation of oil exports of Libya,” he said.

He also urged international actors to prevent the “illegal” oil export of rival General Khalifa Haftar. “The oil, which should be used by all Libyans, should not be allowed to be used by the putschists,” he said.

On a political process and solution under the auspices of the U.N., Erdoğan said that although Haftar and his militias have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, the Saraj government has always taken a positive attitude in this process.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for ending contacts with the renegade warlord.

“A person who constantly threatens the future of Libya can no longer have a right to represent Syria and sit on the negotiations table. History will judge those who cause bloodshed and tears in Libya by supporting putschist Haftar," he added.

Referring to the Libyan government's fight with Haftar and his militias in the eastern part of the country, Saraj said: "We will continue our struggle until we eliminate the enemy in Libya."

He added the Libyan government has achieved great success against the attacks initiated by mercenaries and their supporters. "We completely liberated Tripoli and its surroundings. Actually, this success is the victory of all of us," he added.

On possible new talks with Haftar, Saraj said the Libyan government will not allow negotiations with him in the next stages. The GNA’s prime minister expressed his will to increase cooperation with Turkey and said he wants to see Turkish companies for the reconstruction of Libya. He added that Libya has a great opportunity to establish constructive cooperation with Turkey due to its natural and human resources.

Libyan Army takes strategic Tarhuna city

Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government captured the last major stronghold of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar near Tripoli on June 5, capping the sudden collapse of his 14-month offensive on the capital.

Military sources in Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) said their forces had withdrawn from the town of Tarhuna. They headed towards Sirte, far along the coast, and the airbase of al-Jufra in central Libya. The advance extends the control of the GNA and allied forces across most of northwest Libya, reversing many of Haftar’s gains from last year when he raced towards Tripoli.

The UN has started holding talks with both sides for a ceasefire deal in recent days, though previous truces have not stuck. The GNA gains could entrench the de facto partition of Libya into zones controlled by rival eastern and western governments whose foreign backers compete for regional sway.

Turkish military support for the GNA, with drone strikes, air defenses and supply of allied Syrian fighters, was key to its recent successes. Ankara regards Libya as crucial to defending its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. However, the LNA still retains its foreign support. Washington said last week Moscow had sent warplanes to LNA-held Jufra, though Russia and the LNA denied this.

The United Nations says weapons and fighters have flooded into the country in defiance of an arms embargo, risking a deadlier escalation. Meanwhile, a blockade of oil ports by eastern-based forces has almost entirely cut off energy revenue and both administrations face a looming financial crisis.

Located in the hills southeast of Tripoli, Tarhuna had functioned as a forward base for Haftar’s assault on the capital. Its swift fall suggests Haftar’s foreign supporters were less willing to sustain his bid to take over the entire country once Turkey intervened decisively to stop him, Hurriyyat Daily News said.

“The Libyan government forces are rapidly moving in an organized manner and with armed drones. There could be a solution at the table, but Haftar’s forces are losing ground in every sense,” said a Turkish official. 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 5 said that Turkish soldiers are approaching the “targeted plans” in Libya during the struggle they are leading.

“Our soldiers are writing epics in Libya, northern Iraq, and Syria’s north-western region of Idlib. We are carrying out our fight against terror with our own means; we make our investments,” Erdogan said.

Libyan army launches operation to retake Sirte, Jufra

The Libyan army launched a military operation on June 6 to take cities in eastern and central Libya from militias of warlord Khalifa Haftar.

In a statement, military spokesman Abdel-Hadi Dara said the operation, code-named Path of Victory, aims to take the cities of Sirte and Jufra and the towns of Wadi Wishka, Buerat, Jarif and Qasr Abu Haid from Haftar's forces.

He said warplanes struck two military vehicles belonging to Haftar south of Wadi Wishka. For his part, army spokesman Mohammed Kanunu said government forces have been ordered to advance towards Wadi Wishka and Sirte. He said Libyan warplanes carried out five airstrikes against Haftar's forces near Sirte, the source added in another report.

On Friday, the Libyan army liberated the strategic city of Tarhuna- the last stronghold of Haftar in western Libya.