Trump Says He Does Not See a US Role in Libya

On 23 April, Abdullah Dabbashi (a.k.a. Abdullah Haftar), a Libyan ISIS leader was reportedly killed in an ambush by tribal militia forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Sabratha. Dabbashi was the leader of the Ansar al-Sharia faction in Sabratha which joined ISIS in 2015. He was reported to have been killed during US airstrikes against an ISIS training camp in the coastal city of Sabratha in early 2016.

On 23 April, the LNA revealed that Mohammed al-Moghrabi (aka Randa al-Abeda), an ISIS fighter who formerly fought against the LNA in Benghazi, was alive. Randa was arrested by the LNA in Ajdabiya on 22 February after fleeing from the besieged area of Ganfuda in Benghazi. A video which purportedly showed the execution of Randa was released on 24 February by the LNA’s Tariq Ibn Ziyad Brigade.

The LNA claims it staged his widely condemned execution video as part of an intelligence operation to track and arrest ISIS collaborators in Benghazi. The LNA claims that 54 people have already been detained as a result of Randa’s confessions, reportedly including some LNA fighters who were informing ISIS of the LNA’s movements, and supplying weapons and ammunition to the jihadists.

On 20 April, in a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Paulo Gentiloni at the White House, US President Donald Trump said, “I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles”. This was one of Trump’s first public remarks about Libya since taking office and followed comments by Gentolini that the US role in Libya is critical for ensuring political stability. However, Trump said the US would continue to play a major role in ridding the world of the Islamic State (ISIS), including in Libya.

On 23 April, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated during a press conference in Djibouti that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and other UN representatives have found a suitable candidate to nominate as UN Special Envoy to Libya. This follows a US veto in February on the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam al-Fayyad to the position. Mattis also said that successes would not be guaranteed if the United States focused exclusively on counterterrorism. Mattis said, “We all are aware that there’s disarray in the unity government, and until you straighten that out, there’s going to be a lot of transient successes if you try and just do counterterrorism.”

On 20 April, UN Special Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) had been blurred, adding that the major risk came now from internal conflict and the growth of militias in the continuing power vacuum. Kobler reiterated that the LPA was the only option and is open to amendment by Libyans, but stressed that, “There is no alternative, there is no plan B. And there is no need for one.” He added that the international community needed to move beyond policies of containment, noting that although issues such as border security, migration and terrorism must be addressed, these are symptoms not the causes of the current crisis.

On 19 April, a delegation headed by wealthy Misratan tycoon Abdul Hamid Dbaiba and comprising mainly Misratan military figures working under the GNA, made an official visit to Moscow to meet with representatives from the Russian foreign ministry and parliament. The delegation included Mohammed al-Ghosri, the GNA’s spokesperson for the MoD, Colonel Abu Shahma, nominated by the GNA as military governor for Sirte, and Ben Rajab, head of Misrata Military Council.

Libya-Analysis is the most read independent English-language blog on Libyan affairs. It is run by Jason Pack, founder of and researcher of World History at Cambridge University

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