Libya: Battleground of Mercenaries
April 1, 2020
April 1, 2020
The Second Libyan Civil War has fundamentally changed character in the last year to six months. While actors like Russia have been involved for years, newer parties to the conflict such as Turkey are making a large impact, as previous Grey Dynamics intelligence articles (1,2) have noted.
Mercenary fighters in Libya have three main sources:
Some of the mercenaries coming to Libya from elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East have dubious origins. The Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdul Rahman, claims that of perhaps 4700 Syrian fighters brought by Turkey to fight for the GNA, as many as 130 could be former Islamic State or Al-Qaeda fighters. This is a not-insignificant proportion of fighters and is significant because they will be gaining resources, experience, and cash while in Libya. As for the Sudanese mercenaries fighting with the LNA, it seems that several of the commanders are simply in Libya for the financial rewards – they revealed to the Guardian that they intend to go home and displace the Transitional Government in Sudan after finishing fighting in Libya. Additionally, if any of the Sudanese mercenaries were in the Rapid Support Forces prior to fighting in Libya, they may well have been involved in crimes against humanity, such as the massacre of protestors in Khartoum, in 2019.
The presence of large numbers of fighters largely motivated by cash is likely to have knock-on effects in Libya outside of purely military effects. Tim Eaton, a senior research fellow for Chatham House, claims that mercenaries interact with smugglers, traffickers, and migrants in different ways. Either they impede them, extorting them for money, or facilitate their movement as a means of generating revenue. To be clear, this is not a problem exclusive to mercenaries, as armed groups of both sides have been involved in trafficking.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grey Dynamics LTD.
Louis Tayler is a graduate from the University of Exeter, where he studied Arabic, and is currently studying History & Politics