The civil war in Libya unexpectedly entered a new phase: the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar, who until recently was considered the main contender for the establishment of sole power in Libya, suffered a number of sensitive defeats. The offensive of the LNA on Tripoli, the capital of Libya, was virtually drowned, and the capture of the city now seems an extremely dubious event.
Currently, the LNA has announced the temporary withdrawal of its troops "three kilometers from the front line." Haftar called it a goodwill gesture before the Muslim holiday of Uraza Bairam and the month of Ramadan, as well as concern for civilians who do not want to celebrate the holiday under fire. Strictly speaking, it was a unilateral truce, to which Haftar urged the PNS to join. True, a somewhat earlier Libyan marshal twice interrupted negotiations between the warring parties (in Moscow and Berlin), and in April declared himself the supreme ruler of Libya and said that the Libyan national army subordinate to it would independently form the institutions of power that would govern the country.
At first, it seemed that the LNA was waiting for undoubted success - the lion's share of the country was under the control of Haftar, and his opponents were literally locked in Tripoli and on a small adjacent site in the province of Tripolitania. Haftaru had only one decisive step before absolute power - the seizure of the capital. Seeing the power of the marshal, several important players, both regional and world, made a bet on him at once. Among the most valuable allies were neighboring Egypt, the UAE and Russia. But his opponents were unexpectedly supported by Turkey, and now one can only guess for what reason - whether Russia would retaliate for its interference in Syria, or based on its vision of Ankara’s geopolitical interests.
And the Turkish intervention played a role: the PNS forces literally gained a second wind, several victories over the LNA followed, and the latter have recently suffered a completely serious defeat: PNS units were able to capture al-Vatyya air base, located only 120 kilometers from Tripoli. In fairness, let's say that this seizure looks very doubtful, because during the defense of such a strategically important object, the LNA forces, according to their opponents from the PNS, lost "up to seven people killed and wounded." That is, this is clearly not Stalingrad due to the intensity of the battle, and one can only guess why such an important object turned out to be almost defenseless.
As for the importance of the base itself for the Haftar forces, it is difficult to overestimate it. Such a parameter as flight time is very important from the point of view of the operational capabilities of the Air Force. Roughly speaking, by halving it, one can proportionally increase the striking power of one’s aircraft. That is, the loss of the air base, located literally in minutes of flight from Tripoli, most directly affected the potential of the Haftar forces.
Turkish journalists and bloggers, who were almost the first to come to al-Waty, hastened to inform the media about the defeat of the LNA forces and broadcast many photos of captured trophies. Among them, in particular, are still Soviet-built combat aircraft, the combat effectiveness of which, to put it mildly, is under great question. Mi-24A combat helicopters are also featured there, for the most part, disassembled and non-operational. Quite a lot of ammunition of various types. But the main trophy, literally the highlight of all success, is the modern Russian-made Pantsir-C1 air defense missile system. Damaged, slightly burnt, it was nevertheless transported through the streets of Tripoli, as important evidence of victory over the enemy.
Oddly enough, the Haftar headquarters recognized the defeat. “It’s better to honestly admit defeat than dishonestly to fight,” they said there. It was unambiguously difficult to say whether this was a hint of a certain “dishonesty” of the enemy, but, given the local specifics, it can almost certainly be regarded as an attack on the enemy.
True, representatives of the LNA say that this base was not of great strategic importance, and after performing some transit functions, its role for the Haftar army was exhausted. This is a very dubious statement, and we have already talked about the reasons. True, given the general condition of the Libyan Air Force, once defeated by NATO bombing, with some exaggeration we can say that the air force component is not of fundamental importance. On the other hand, it is also true that the less combat aircraft the opposing parties have, the more reasonable it would be to place it closer to the place of hostilities in order to minimize flight time.
Many failures associate LNA’s current failures with two factors: Turkey’s intervention on the side of the PNS and sharply weakened support from Haftar’s sponsors. The Libyan marshal was really able to set himself against everyone who was in favor of a diplomatic settlement of the conflict in Libya - Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. It is clear that they will not abandon him at once, this would be fraught with loss of face and, as a result, influence in the region. But gradually, the trickling stream of help to Haftaru hints that he should have been more attentive to the efforts of his sponsors.
Another reason for the current troubles of the LNA is directly called the complicated relations with the Russian private military company (PMC) Wagner. According to available information, the leadership of the LNA after some failures at the front refused to fulfill its obligations to Russian (as well as Syrian, etc.) mercenaries. Those, of course, sharply reduced their activity on the line of contact. And this could well become a significant factor that influenced the course of events.
In general, the situation in Libya is rather complicated, and so far no one can say what the outcome of this war will be. Intervention in the Turkish conflict has seriously changed the balance of power on the battlefield - Turkish Bayraktar-TB2 and Anka-S drones in the conditions of an almost complete absence of anti-aircraft defense proved to be quite effective weapons against LNA. Also, Turkey was able to arrange the recruitment of mercenaries in Syria, in Idlib controlled by it, for the PNS units. Having gone through a large school of civil war, the militants of former extremist organizations quickly adapted to new conditions and, according to available information, show themselves well in battle. Do not deduct from the accounts and the direct participation of the Turkish army in the conflict - for example, there have been recorded cases of rocket attacks on LNA positions by Turkish frigates.
Of course, the international sponsors of Haftar also did not sit idly by. In particular, the above-mentioned Pantsir-C1 air defense missile systems were delivered to Libya not by Russia, as one might think, but by the United Arab Emirates. They also supplied the Haftar forces with other modern weapons, in particular patrol boats, as well as trucks and other dual-use equipment. Russia, through the hands of its PMCs, has established the recruitment and dispatch of mercenaries from Syria to Libya, where the civil conflict and general poverty of the population contribute to the demand, as it were softer, of "military specialties of a special kind."
But there is even more interesting information regarding the possible future of Libya and a political settlement in this country. According to rumors, Kremlin officials have already met with the son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Seif Gaddafi, although not currently a powerful political force, is nevertheless very promising as a “banner” for those who are nostalgic for the times of the “People’s Jamahiriya” of his father. But it may be that this is just a hint to uncontrollable Haftar - the Kremlin does not have irreplaceable ones, and if it refuses to fulfill the plans developed in Moscow, it can rely on another.
In any case, the situation is confusing. Surely one thing can be said - it’s too early to write off Haftar and LNA from the accounts. Moreover, common sense dictates that one should expect not so much de-escalation as aggravation of the conflict - now the headquarters will evaluate the situation, draw up lists of the necessary weapons, transfer a few tens of thousands of mercenaries and everything will start anew, only at a new round of technological and human capabilities of the parties.
And little will not seem to anyone. And the Libyans - for sure...