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GNA Makes Significant Gains in Libya

At the order of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan National Army (LNA) has withdrawn from their last footholds in the suburbs of Tripoli. Meanwhile, opposition forces announced they had captured Tarhuna, the last major stronghold of the reneged commander in the west. The events of June 5, 2020 end a 15-month LNA campaign to capture the capital city from Libya's internationally recognized government, the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Located roughly 75 miles southeast of Tripoli, Tarhouna has served as a major logistical, training, and command facility for Haftar. At this installation, Russians, Egyptians, and Emiratis coordinated their movements with the LNA in order to conduct effective operations in western Libya. Now, GNA forces may turn towards Bani Walid, placing thousands of displaced refugees in the sights of vengeful militias.

The LNA's loss of Tripoli was doomed to eventually occur, especially given the loss of al-Watiya Airbase on May 20. However, the failure of the offensive does not mean the downfall of Haftar or the LNA. It will simply spur a major recalculation on the part of both the GNA and LNA. We assess that there is a high level of probability that the GNA's capture of Tripoli and Tarhouna will simply lead to continued conflict and the de facto partitioning of Libya between rival eastern and western governments.

Foreign support has played a major role in the continuation of the conflict. Last week, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that the Russian Federation had sent warplanes to Jufra to support LNA forces and Russian Mercenaries on the ground in Libya. Meanwhile, Turkish military support for the GNA, specifically drone and air defense systems, have proven vital for recent victories.

Civil war has gripped the nation since 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi was killed in a popular uprising. The current war is the result of in-fighting between the Tripoli-based GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and the House of Representatives allied to Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Army, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.


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