Almost two months have passed since the signing of the permanent Libya ceasefire agreement in Geneva by the delegations of the 5+5 Joint Military Committee on behalf of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar's forces, yet things are just getting worse; military-wise.
The signing brokered by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on October 23 in Geneva was a breakthrough after over 14 months of bloodshed that started with the offensive waged by Haftar’s forces on Tripoli in an attempt to seize power from the GNA.
The ceasefire, which was hailed from both the GNA and Haftar’s forces along with their foreign supporters as well as other Security Council members, including the host of the Berlin Conference, Germany, was very clear and straightforward in terms of the conditions for moving on with the solution: both political and military, and to some extent the economic.
Part of that clarity was the obligatory withdrawal of foreign forces, foreign elements, foreign mercenaries from both sides of the conflict, in addition to the withdrawal of local forces from Sirte and Jufra as well as newly-seized areas to their former camps.
The 5+5 Joint Military Commission delegations agreed that, within a maximum period of three months, all military units and armed groups on the frontlines shall return to their camps and that all mercenaries and foreign fighters shall depart from all Libyan territories: land, air and sea.
The ceasefire also established a Security and Operations Room which was supposed to propose and implement special security arrangements to secure the areas cleared of military units and armed groups. It foresaw the establishment of a limited military force of regular military personnel under the Security and Operations Room to deter violations of the ceasefire. However, despite the meetings held face to face in Sirte by the 5+5 commission, nothing serious has happened – except for more military reinforcements and influx of mercenaries.
Violations of Ceasefire
After the Libyan ceasefire took effect last October, military movements on the ground settled, but only for a few days, as Haftar’s forces started scattering the terms of that agreement left and right.
Many incidents of ceasefire violations were reported by the media and GNA, especially the GNA’s Sirte-Jufra Operations Room, whose spokesman Abdelhadi Drah reported more than once military build-ups for Haftar’s forces with the help of Russian Wagner Group and Sudanese Janjaweed mercenaries in and around Sirte and Jufra in central Libya, besides the continuous influx of weapons and mercenaries on Russian planes to Benghazi’s Benina airport as well as Qardabiyah and Jufra airbases.
In one violation, Haftar’s forces received 23 armored vehicles from a plane landing in Qardabiyah airbase in Sirte, and then took them to south Libya. In a second incident, they attacked civilians and destroyed their houses – twice – in Ubari in southern Libya claiming they were looking for “terrorists”.
UNSMIL Too Busy to Keep an Eye
The ceasefire agreement was supposed to foresee the establishment of a mechanism to monitor, jointly with UNSMIL, the implementation of the ceasefire on the ground, yet no such thing was done as the UNSMIL detached itself completely from the military track over the last 56 days, focusing on the political bargaining and the economic battle in both the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) and the rift between the Libyan National Oil Corporation and Central Bank of Libya.
The UN mission grew deafeningly silent toward the military violations of Haftar’s forces in the south or the build-up in and around Sirte and Jufra, as it merely concentrated on fixing a mechanism with the LPDF participants to select certain names for the new Presidential Council and Prime Minister posts ahead of the agreed upon elections on December 24, 2021, which is a result of the LPDF deliberations.
Encouraged by such a motivating silence by the UNSMIL, Haftar continued his track, which he started in his 2014 violence wave in eastern and western Libya and continued over the years up to 2019, when he tried to seize power by force backed by France, Russia, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Thousands of Mercenaries – One Month to Go
The acting Head of the UNSMIL, Stephanie Williams, herself explained at the start of the political dialogue last month that there are now 10 military bases in the country that are either fully or partially occupied by foreign forces, revealing that there are 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries in Libya.
This remark coming from the UN, which is supervising a solution for the crisis, tells it all: it says that the UN cannot and will not push the parties harboring those mercenaries into making them leave Libya. It also outlines the inability of the UN to force the countries behind the illegal influx of weapons and mercenaries to cease such actions.
This frustration with the UN approach to the supposedly-consensual ceasefire agreement and to the ongoing developments on the ground was translated into warnings by the GNA’s Defense Minister, Salah Al-Namroush, who threatened to withdraw from the 5+5 Joint Military Commission if Haftar forces’ violations continued.
After all, the 5+5 JMC may never make it to the 10 JMC, as the acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams once wished to call it. Not with the current divisions on so many matters on the ground, including the inability of the LPDF participants to agree on a mechanism to nominate certain names for the posts of members of the Presidential Council and the Prime Minister; a dilemma that speaks of division and unrest tick-toking into the last month-deadline for a miraculous withdrawal of foreign mercenaries so the ceasefire can hold: once.