Libya: US pulls out troops as fighting rages between GNA forces & rival LNA
US military command for Africa, AFRICOM, have temporally withdrawn US troops out of Libya amid deadly armed confrontation between militia forces aligned with UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) of east-based warlord Khalifa Haftar.
The Libyan capital Tripoli has become since late last week the target of Haftar’s LNA after the military strongman ordered his troops to capture the city, despite UN efforts to unify the factions and rivals through a forum scheduled for 14-15 this month.
In a statement, the US military command, which has worked in close collaboration with the GNA in the fight against terrorist groups, said it was evacuating a contingent of US forces due to unrest in Libya.
“We will continue to monitor conditions on the ground and assess the feasibility for renewed US military presence, as appropriate,” AFRICOM said.
The US did not elaborate on the size of the troops but video footage on socio-media showed two fast US navy transport craft manoeuvring off a beach in Janzour, in Tripoli’s western suburbs, sending up plumes of spray, The Guardian reports.
The craft were ferrying the American troops from the beach, the media noted.
Fighting between the two rival sides focused Saturday around the Mitiga international airport, south of Tripoli. The GNA forces, according to the BBC, carried out air strikes on Haftar forces in full flesh confrontation. The LNA reportedly on Sunday conducted its first air strike in reprisal to the GNA-sponsored pounding.
The fighting have left 21 people dead and 27 wounded according to BBC reports. The dead reportedly include 14 fighters aligned with the LNA.
The UN has asked the two sides to observe a truce in order to enable the evacuation of casualties and wounded.
Besides Washington’s pulling out of soldiers, the UN is likely to evacuate non-essential staff. India, according to its top diplomat, Sushma Swaraj, has evacuated 15 Central Reserve Police Force peacekeepers from Tripoli due to the security situation.
“The situation in Libya has suddenly worsened. There is fighting in Tripoli. Indian Embassy in Tunisia @IndiainTunisia has evacuated the entire contingent of 15 CRPF personnel yesterday itself. I appreciate the excellent work by Indian Embassy in Tunisia. #Libya,” Swaraj tweeted.
Haftar launched the offensive despite agreeing with GNA’s leader Faiez Serraj not to overrun the country militarily and to endorse UN efforts to assist in the organization of presidential and legislative elections this year.