On Sunday, the United States pulled its contingent of troops from Libya in the wake of General Khalifa Haftar having ambitions to take control of the capital Tripoli. There has been a surge in violence mainly from the issue of the General wanting control over Tripoli.
Forces under the General made surprise advances to the capital, and a battle with a coalition of armed factions from the region around the city ensued.
The head of US Africa Command Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, "The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable. Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing U.S. strategy."
The "increased unrest" has caused the United States to move its troops from Libya. This is the same country that led the NATO-backed political revolt in 2011 that toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, causing chaos to be born as a result. And this is the chaos that is manifesting itself today. The American forces provided "military support for diplomatic missions, counterterrorism activities and improving regional security."
Various militias seek to wrest control of Tripoli. However forces led by General Haftar (under the Libyan National Army) and also forces led by the Government of National Accord are the ones seeking to have complete control over the capital city which receives its income from the sale of oil. Tripoli is the country's financial hub, having the country's central bank.
Fighting has increased in Libya because of the ambitious General Haftar. He is based in Benghazi but has his sights on taking over Tripoli. Meanwhile the UN and EU backed Government of National Accord under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has failed to really have substantial power over Tripoli because of various warring militia groups also seeking control of the capital.
General Haftar's advances towards Libya have made the situation difficult for America, while he seemingly gets closer to his hope of having complete control over the whole of Libya. On Sunday, the UN called for a "humanitarian truce" between 4 p.m and 6 p.m in order to allow ambulances to take wounded civilians to hospitals. Rival forces were being urged to stop fighting.
Multiple tribes are also fighting over the declining oil wealth of Libya, as well as militant groups including ISIS which are spread all over the country.
"To our army stationed on the border of Tripoli today, we continue the march of struggle and response to the appeal of our people in the capital as we promised them," Haftar said in an audio recording posted on his media office's Facebook account on Thursday.
General Haftar is resisting attempts by the United Nations at striking talks that aim towards an international peace deal.
In the face of this increasing tension and violence, what the United States military has decided to do is remaining neutral between the "United Nations’ so-called Government of National Accord, or G.N.A., on one hand, and General Haftar’s forces, which he calls the Libyan National Army, or L.N.A., on the other."
"We don’t want to get in front of the diplomatic effort, and we want to maintain our neutrality," General Waldhauser said, adding "because it’s very, very important that we don’t, all of a sudden, back one side that turns the other way." He remarked that Libyan militias switch allegiances regularly.
What are the chances that both sides will de-escalate the chaotic situation that is continuously unfolding in the North African country?
Header image credit - The New York Times