LIBYAPROSPECT – London
The repercussions of the French military in Benghazi resonated within the French media. In addition to the report published by France24, which was translated by LIBYAPROSPECT; L’Opinion website released a report regarding the incident and its consequences, also translated by LIBYAPROSPECT.
The report mentioned the announcement made by the French Ministry of Defense relating to the killing of three French soldiers on Libyan territory, without giving details on their deaths. However, the French President announced that the soldiers died in a helicopter accident, and acknowledged the presence of French military forces to carry out intelligence operations.
According to the report, the French soldiers were agents of the General Directorate of Exterior Security’s (DGSE) Action Service, the only faction authorized to carry out covert operations outside of France. The agents were killed after being shot down by one of General Khalifa Haftar’s surface-to-air missiles. The report added that the agents’ mysterious death confirms that even after five years, the situation in Libya remains complicated, with French policy being just as ambiguous.
Two governments coexist in Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west, lead by Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Eastern government controlled by Haftar, as stated in the report. The GNA formed earlier this year and was unanimously endorsed by the UN. Haftar refused to support it although it received recognition from the International Community.
On the 23rd of last December, France agreed to the UN Security Council resolution 2259 regarding the formation of the GNA headed by Al-Sarraj.
Al-Sarraj arrived in Tripoli on March 30th. However, he remained stuck on a naval base until July 12th. He finally settled in the official government headquarters in Tripoli, a move that was welcomed by the French Foreign Ministry as expressed in a statement supporting the GNA, the reconstruction of the Libyan institutions as well as the revival of the economy.
At the same time, France supports Haftar, who refuses to recognize the GNA. France’s assistance to Haftar remained secret until the three soldiers’ incident, which highlighted the embarrassing support that “diplomatic” France provides for Haftar.
Patrick Haimzade, considered one of the best French experts in Libyan affairs, said that it is difficult to see the contradiction in France’s dealings with Libya, it backs the GNA then sends military experts to assist Haftar who does not recognize this government.
The report alluded to the conference held in Tunisia under the auspices of the UN in hopes of creating a unified Libyan army. The attempt failed due to Haftar’s rejection. The report also refers to the head of UN’s support mission in Libya, Martin Kobler, who stated that the only solution is forming a unified army under the GNA. The German diplomat added that Haftar has not yet agreed to meet him.
While the International Community supports the GNA, Haftar gains support from Egypt and the UAE; both are considered to have good relationships with France in supporting Haftar, which could explain Paris’s contradictory position.
According to Haimzade, Haftar’s position is just as vulnerable. He also added that the situation in western (Tripoli) is promising, especially since Haftar’s forces are not involved in the war against the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte, who suffered great losses from Misrata forces.
Once again the French position is not clear of contradictions. State officials repeatedly highlighted the importance of fighting the IS. However, they keep sending military advisors to support Haftar, who refuses to fight the IS, as opposed to the British and American forces which are present in the city of Sirte.
As for human trafficking, Haimzade denied that the IS has over 6000 members as promoted last year in preparation for a nationwide operation. He estimated their numbers to be around 1500, stating that their numbers have dropped due to the damages caused by Misrata forces since May 12th.
In another context, the report said that the Libyan political crisis helped facilitate illegal immigration from the Libyan coast. It is estimated that the number of illegal immigrants to Italy is 80000, almost the same figure as last year.
The EU Operation “Sophia” was supposed to prevent human trafficking in the Mediterranean, but the boats involved in the operation were sending illegal immigrants to Europe. The third phase of the process, which is intervening by force against migrant boats either in territorial waters or on the beach was not completed; due to the requirement of an official decision by the Political and Security Committee following a request by the Operation Commander.
The report concludes by affirming that everyone is taking advantage of the Libyan crisis to thrive in human trafficking, as stated by Haimzade.