The US Administration under new President Joe Biden is working to develop a new strategy in Libya, different from that adopted by former White House tenant Donald Trump. The latter had displayed a mysterious and equivocal speech, in the face of the ambitions of the retired Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar, who aspired to rule the country.
Unlike Trump (2017-2021), the Biden administration does not appear to accept abuses by Haftar militias, according to a State Department human rights report for the year. 2020, a document that was made public on April 13.
Indeed, the Report accuses Haftar’s militias of being involved in arbitrary and illegal executions, enforced disappearances, acts of torture and recruitment of children, used in the armed conflict.
The said report also underlines that groups allied with Haftar had seized the city of Sirte (center), where many civilians were victims of kidnappings and kidnappings, on the grounds of their “loyalty” displayed to the government of Tripoli National Agreement. The same document does not ignore the crimes and abuses carried out by al-Kany militias in the city of Tarhouna (west).
This report is a clue as to the policy that Washington will adopt towards the Haftar militias, in particular, in view of the increase in assassinations and acts of kidnapping in the city of Benghazi (east), where the situation safe may get out of control.
The American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, wished, during the presentation of the report, to use the expression “all the tools of our diplomacy to defend human rights and demand accountability by perpetrators of the abuses ”.
Sanctions: Possible option from Washington?
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement on March 12 in which he stressed “the need to strengthen accountability by any party that seeks to undermine the electoral roadmap, set up by the Libyans ”.
This is a message addressed, essentially, to Haftar, who had sabotaged many previous attempts to conduct elections, including those scheduled for December 10, 2018, under the Paris Agreement, as well as elections in spring 2019, the subject of an agreement between the protagonists of the conflict in Palermo, Italy.
Moreover, Haftar chose the date of spring 2019 to launch his major military offensive against Tripoli, instead of organizing the elections, taking advantage of the famous telephone interview he had with the Trump administration at the time. , interview considered to be an “amber light” which was granted to him to continue the fighting, which fighting continued for 14 months, with their share of thousands of deaths and injuries as well as considerable material damage.
The date of December 24, 2021 represents a new appointment for the holding of presidential and legislative elections, the subject of an agreement between the protagonists of the conflict, during their meeting held in Tunisia, last November.
The United States and the United Nations are betting on the organization of credible Libyan elections and the guarantee to citizens of basic services, to end the conflict through an inclusive political process, according to Blinken, who carried out a telephone interview with Abdelhamid Debaibah, Head of the Libyan Union government.
Wagner’s mercenaries: Washington’s main source of concern
The 2,000 or so Wagner mercenaries deployed in Libya are the main source of concern for the United States, especially as information is circulating about Moscow’s efforts to ensure a permanent military presence in the North African country. , which represents a great threat to the interests of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in the southern Mediterranean.
Wagner’s mercenaries continue to dig trenches and fortify their positions, according to information reported by the forces of Operation Volcano of Wrath, reporting to the Libyan army, which could indicate that the withdrawal of the mercenaries from the Libyan army. Libyan territory will not happen at a near date.
This configuration prompted Washington to activate the role of its European allies, to get them to put Libya at the top of their priorities, the aim being to thwart any Russian expansion in the region.
It is in this context that Blinken’s participation in the meeting of NATO foreign ministers on March 23 in Brussels falls to discuss a series of issues, mainly, the challenge of Russian presence in Libya.
Two days after this transatlantic meeting, the heads of diplomacy of three main European countries, in this case France, Germany and Italy, went to Tripoli, to affirm that the European position concerning the situation in Libya is united, and to underline their support for the government of National Union, recently invested.
This Euro-American position, supporting the Union government, has come to corroborate the erosion of the confidence of the international community in Haftar, considered primarily responsible for the advent of Russian mercenaries in Libya.
Diplomatic and economic options
Several American circles, keen observers of the Libyan dossier, exclude Washington’s use of force to remove Wagner’s mercenaries from Libyan territory.
Indeed, the American intervention in Libya, in 2011, resulted, several years later, in the reinforcement of the presence of Russian mercenaries in two air bases, in Sirte and al-Joffra (center), last consequence what the American decision-maker could imagine and envision a decade ago.
Thus, it is expected that Washington reactivates its diplomatic and economic tools to exert pressure on Russia, so that the latter repatriates its mercenaries from Libya.
This pressure could also affect American allies in the region, who facilitated Wagner’s presence in the southern wing of NATO.
Indeed, the freeze by the Biden Administration on the sale of F-35 type planes to the Emirates can be considered as part of the American pressure exerted by Washington on Abu Dhabi to bring it to suspend or even stop its military coordination with Russia in Libya.
Nonetheless, Biden could face a split in the approach of the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress over the possible solution in Libya.
If the House of Representatives had approved the law to strengthen stability in Libya, last November, the text is still pending at the level of the Senate, with a Republican majority.
The fact remains that this division did not prevent Washington from putting al-Canyettes militias, allies of Haftar’s militias, on the sanctions list during the same month.
“The law on the strengthening of stability in Libya” provides for the preparation of lists of personalities who have violated international law and human rights in Libya, while imposing sanctions on perpetrators of war crimes or crimes financial.
During the first three months of Biden’s tenure, Washington showed more involvement in the Libyan dossier, to regain the initiative of the international parties, foremost among which is Russia.
The United States has also endeavored to activate the role of its European allies, to intervene forcefully in the Libyan dossier, but is facing an internal split in Congress, which has hampered the adoption of the law for the strengthening stability in Libya
Washington put all its weight in the organization of the Libyan elections, on the scheduled date (next December), while working to marginalize the role of Haftar, without completely excluding it, given his ability to undermine the peace process in the country.
Source Anadolu Agency