Russia presence increase in Libya focusing on Wagner forces
Images released by AFRICOM (American terrorist Central Command in Africa) late in May show that at least 14 warplanes including Su-24, Mig-29 and Su-35 are moved to Khadim based in northeast and al-Jufrah in center of Libya. Analysing images of al-Jufrah airbase show not only Russia’s air force presence increased but also ground forces mainly of private military company Wagner increased as well.
Russia started to seriously support the government formed in northeast of Libya(Tobruk) militarily, diplomatically and financially since 2015.
In Libya, LNA under command of Khalifa Haftar is fighting with the UN supported government in northwest of Libya, i.e., GNA in Tripoli.
In addition to supporters of LNA including Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia, Russia’s support in training troops, arming and consulting the commanders and leader of LNA increased significantly since 2017.
The main contribution is carried out by Wagner forces who positioned several hundred mercenaries in training camps, airbases, front lines, energy sites and other infrastructures since 2018 in addition to their forces.
In conflicts of 2019 and early 2020, Russian Wagner forces contributed significantly to Haftar’s advances toward west and Tripoli. According to sources, in early 2020 between 800 to 1,200 Russian forces helped Haftar who are being supported aerially by Russian warplanes arrival.
Al-Jufrah airbase lays in a strategic area in center of Libya which has a key role in logistics of LNA in operations in west of Libya and toward Tripoli. Several squadrons of Libyan air force were in this base since the time of Gaddafi. Russian warplanes and Wagner forces increased their activities in this base in 2019 and 2020.
On 6 June 2020 images of al-Jufrah airbase was released in social media which showed Russia activities increased in Libya.
Analyzing the images of mid May 2020 tells us that Russian forces are preparing the landing of airplane in al-Jufrah airbase base. Pantsir-s1 SAMs are installed to intercept Turkish warplanes. New ground weapons, ammo, vehicles and tents can be seen including a shelter for a Mig-29, which is most probably for incoming airplanes.
In 2017 Russian Wagner forces were mainly engaged with training and arming LNA but in Fall of 2019 there were signs of Wagner forces engagement in Tripoli battle. According to local sources, Wagner forces alongside LNA forces and other supporters of LNA were placing snipers, anti-armor missiles, surveillance drones, SAMs and guided anti-aircraft cannons inside and outside Tripoli for future operations.
Although since last April Turkish backed troops (including Syrian mercenaries and GNA) pushed back LNA from most of their advances, but al-Jufrah base was a HQ for Wagner forces to reinforce and refresh. In May GNA and Turkish militants attacked south of Tripoli front lines and on 24 May hundreds of Wagner forces retreated.
According to released images, Russian forces retreated to Bani Walid town, 180 km out of Tripoli with heavy equipment and on 25 May they moved to Jufra base.
The images show many Russian forces and heavy equipment are entering Jufra base on 28 May.
In above images Russian Pantsir-s1 SAM and 130 mm arsenal with equipment, vehicles, personnel and tents are shown.
Incidents of recent months show that war in Libya is in a new phase and level of conflicts increased from local to regional.
Russia’s active role in Libya with more troops resulted in LNA significant advances and to gain a geostrategic place in Libya but also showed that proxy forces have limits and are not enough lonely.
Haftar attack to Tripoli, which was boosted by Wagner forces, increased Turkey’s concerns since fall of Tripoli means Turkey is rejected from Libya and economic and strategic loss. Therefore, as Turkey was waiting for an opportunity to increase its presence in Libya, Haftar’s failed attack gave them the reason to send thousands of their Syrian mercenaries and increase the air supports, neutralizing LNA advances.
On the other hand, although Russia strangely declines its presence in Libya, but new images of Russian Ilyushin planes in Khadim base shows Russia is planning to stop Turkey’s influence in Libya and verbally deny their presence in Libya won’t stop Turkish presence and advances.
And unfortunately the war is still continuing…