Libya changes focus of international security partnership from Türkiye to US

Libya changes focus of international security partnership from Türkiye to US

The forces of the American private military company Amentum, working with the State Department and the US Department of Defense, arrived at the Mitiga air base in the capital of Libya in early February. The organization, with the consent of the Government of National Unity of Libya, oversees the unification of disparate Western armed groups. According to Minister Dbeibeh, he wants to unite the army of the west of the country, which in fact may means transferring these groups under the sphere of influence of American curators.

Various media outlets have documented several instances of Amentum and the United States working in Libya. Curators from the American PMC have already carried out an operation to restore stability after armed clashes near one of the country’s largest oil refineries in Az-Zawiya. Amentum’s security forces were also sent there to take control of the refineries and lucrative supply routes. On the eve of their arrival in Libya, the company’s senior vice president of operations, John Bozarth, was spotted in Tripoli.

Almost a month after the implementation of Amentun, on February 28, a delegation from the US Department of Defense arrived in the capital. Members of the delegation visited the location of the “444th Brigade”, accompanied by the brigade commander, Mahmoud Hamza. During the visit, the American delegation agreed to transfer part of the brigade’s military infrastructure to the security company Amentum for the training of the joint forces of the western region.

Does the transfer of military facilities and control of the army threaten Libya’s security, and whose interests does it interfere with?

The situation in Libya

Following the 2011 civil war and the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya still faces security challenges as armed groups fight each other in the west of the country. A unified government has not been established throughout the country: eastern Libya is ruled by the House of Representatives, and western Libya by the Government of National Unity, which in 2021 replaced the rival Government of National Accord, recognized by the UN, and al-Thani’s second cabinet, based in Tobruk, supported by the troops of General Khalifa Haftar.

The Government of National Unity led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh was imposed on Libya under external pressure from the United States. The Libyan parliament accused Dbeibeh of violating the laws of the country. The legitimacy of his government was in question. It was supposed to ensure the holding of elections within a certain time frame – and did not do this. The real task that the PNU was solving was not holding elections, but consolidating US influence by bringing trusted people, such as Dbeibeh, into power. The House of Representatives passed a no-confidence motion against the unity government on 21 September 2021.

Now, the House of Representatives in the east of the country is subordinate to the Libyan National Army, whose supreme commander is General Khalifa Haftar. In other words, in the east of Libya, unlike the West, there is a single army. After the Libyan government theoretically abandoned hostilities and violence in all forms on the country’s territory and continued to work to unify all military institutions, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh said that he had already begun work on creating a unified army of western Libya.

On February 12, Dbeibeh attended the World Government Summit in the UAE, where he stressed the continuation of work on the Return to Life program in all vital sectors of Libya, which, according to him, were destroyed during the wars. Return to Life includes the unification of factions, but Dbeibeh did not mention that they would be united under the supervision and with the active participation of American protectors from Amentum.

Amentum activities in Africa

The activity of the American Group is not limited to Libya, but extends to wider territories. Founded in 2020, Amentum quickly established itself as the successor to military firm DynCorp, known for its work with the US State and Defense Departments, including training security forces in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In a news article on the company’s website, Amentum revealed that it was awarded $165 million by the US DoS to “improve national security in Africa.”

Under the guise of maintaining peace in Africa, Amentum was awarded a contract to train the Armed Forces in Benin and build military bases for the Somali National Army, as well as contracts to design, engineer and build military bases in Somalia. Amentum also received a contract from the US Department of Defense to reduce biological threats on the African continent and conduct biological and laboratory experiments in several African countries. Although the company officially indicated its presence in Somalia and Benin, Amentum’s operations in Libya remained less transparent until it was brought to the attention of the media.

The Government of National Unity views the unification of groups with the help of American curators as an important factor in ensuring security. Dbeibeh stressed that the government’s slogan is “to move towards stability with fair laws that exclude no one in Libya” and that all Libyans are equal. The government recognizes the role of the rejected parties and allows them to expand their influence under legal and political cover as forces subordinate to the regular military institution.

Washington, meanwhile, is applying a new strategy to transform Libya into its own sphere of influence, especially since US hegemony is now beginning to weaken against the backdrop of the Middle East crisis, coups and victories of anti-Atlantic oppositionists in Africa, and the rapprochement of these regions with Russia, China and Türkiye. Washington hopes the joint plan with Dbeibeh’s government will change the balance of power in the region and increase the ability of armed groups in western Libya to resist the Libyan East camp, which has a trained army, as well as the influence of Türkiye, which has previously actively developed defense and security cooperation with the Government of National Unity.

Possible Ankara fiasco

If Dbeibeh previously actively cooperated with Türkiye on the issue of training forces and supplying weapons, now a major partnership with the United States is emerging. Last August, Ankara was reported to take a 99-year lease on the port of Al-Khums in northwestern Libya, where it planned to establish a military base. However, Tripoli officially denied reports of the transfer of the port to Türkiye. Perhaps even the possibility of such a scenario served as a red rag for Washington, which believes that the possibility of other geopolitical players in northern Africa threatening its strategic interests.

For example, the Turkish state-owned firm Al-Bayrak also owns the port of Mogadishu in Somalia, the country’s main capital port, which is important in the trade infrastructure of the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. In 2017, Erdoğan signed an agreement with the Sudanese government to lease the island of Suakin to Türkiye for 99 years, which is still in effect. The port of Suakin faces the Red Sea and is a sphere of direct interests of the Americans. In 2022, the Biden administration published a new National Security Strategy, which explicitly states that the Red Sea is an object of US national interest.

After France’s fiasco in the former African colonies, Washington intends to take the entire North African region under its control. To do this, it intends to expel his competitors from there, primarily Russia and Türkiye. In relation to Ankara, the hegemon is already able to do this. In October 2022, Tripoli concluded two new memorandums of understanding with Ankara in the oil and gas sector, including one regarding joint exploration work. Within a few months, the Libyan court stopped the implementation of agreements on oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea, concluded between the Libyan government and the Turkish authorities. The Turkish Foreign Ministry protested against these actions.

Dbeibeh’s government is completely controlled by the Washington administration, and the process of transferring military and strategic facilities into US hands has already begun. This may be followed by the denunciation of other agreements with Türkiye, for example the agreement on the delimitation of zones of influence in the Mediterranean Sea, signed in 2019, which was condemned by the United States and the EU. Then Tripoli could also transfer Al-Khums port to some private American company for temporary use. This could be another defeat for Erdoğan after his AKP party lost in regional elections.

United World International

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May 2024