Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

US evacuates military unit from Libya as security situation deteriorates

It was the first public mention that Washington had troops on Libyan soil

Military vehicles of Misrata forces, under the protection of Tripoli's troops, are seen in Tajura neighborhood , east of Tripoli. Reuters
Military vehicles of Misrata forces, under the protection of Tripoli's troops, are seen in Tajura neighborhood , east of Tripoli. Reuters

US Africa Command said on Sunday it moved a military unit from Libya as military commander Khalifa Haftar continued his offensive against militia forces in Tripoli.

Africa Command, known as Africom, said that due to "increased unrest in Libya, a contingent of US forces supporting US Africa Command temporarily relocated in response to security conditions on the ground".

The US gave no details of how big the force is, or how long it has been in the country. It is the first public mention that America had troops on Libyan soil.

"The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said Africom commander General Thomas Waldhauser.

The evacuation came as Field Marshal Haftar’s offensive entered its fourth day, with units of his Libyan National Army fighting Tripoli militias in the city's southern suburbs.

It is the first removal of US personnel from Tripoli since the summer of 2014, when America provided air cover for the evacuation of its embassy when fighting erupted in the capital.

US special forces were sent to Libya several times in recent years, with a series of raids to capture Libyans accused of terrorism.

They included a 2014 operation to capture Ahmed Abu Khattala, later jailed in the US for his role in the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi in 2012.

The US joined fellow members of the G7 economic group – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK – in condemning the Tripoli fighting, saying: "We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the Libyan conflict."

Updated: April 7, 2019 02:49 PM

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