WASHINGTON, (BM) – The presence of Russian troops in Libya destabilizes the country and increases the risks of large-scale casualties among civilians, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs David Schenker said.
According to Schenker, Russia has sent a large military contingent to Libya in support of the so-called Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar.
Since April this year, the Haftar group has launched an offensive against the Libyan capital Tripoli, which is under the control of the UN-recognized National Government.
“A significant number of Russian troops are stationed in Libya in order to assist the Libyan National Army,” the deputy secretary of state said.
CNN notes that this is the first official statement in the US about the presence of regular Russian military units in the African country. So far, the US has noted that several hundred Russian mercenaries from the private army “Wagner” operate in Libya.
We recall that the country was visited by a US delegation led by Vice President of National Security Victoria Coates.
She expressed concern that Russia was exploiting the Libyan conflict.
Who is Libyan National Army leader General Khalifa Haftar?
Field Marshal Khalifa Belqasim Haftar is a dual Libyan-American citizen who is a military officer and the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), which, under Haftar’s leadership, replaced nine elected municipal councils by military administrators, and as of May 2019, was engaged in the Second Libyan Civil War.
On 2 March 2015, he was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected legislative body, the Libyan House of Representatives.
Haftar was born in the Libyan city of Ajdabiya. He served in the Libyan army under Muammar Gaddafi, and took part in the coup that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969.
He took part in the Libyan contingent against Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad after being lulled into a trap and captured, then a major embarrassment for Gaddafi and represented a major blow to Gaddafi’s ambitions in Chad. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi.
He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in Langley, Virginia, in the US, gaining U.S. citizenship. In 1993, while living in the United States, he was convicted in absentia of crimes against the Jamahiriya and sentenced to death.
Haftar held a senior position in the forces which overthrew Gaddafi in the 2011 Libyan Civil War. In 2014 he was commander of the Libyan Army when the General National Congress (GNC) refused to give up power in accordance with its term of office.
Haftar launched a campaign against the GNC and its Islamic fundamentalist allies. His campaign allowed elections to take place to replace the GNC but then developed into a civil war. In 2017, Ramzi al-Shaeri, Vice-President of the Derna city council and lawyers Ryan Goodman and Alex Whiting accused Haftar of the war crime of ordering the killing of prisoners of war during the recapture of Derna.
Haftar has been described as “Libya’s most potent warlord”, having fought “with and against nearly every significant faction” in Libya’s conflicts, as having a “reputation for unrivalled military experience” and as governing “with an iron fist”
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Source: Pan.bg, Wikipedia