Libya's Government of National Accord asks US to set up military base

The United States has pivoted strategically from the Middle East and Africa

A fighter loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) walks past a vehicle in an area south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 12, 2020. Both sides in Libya's conflict agreed to a ceasefire to end nine months of fighting, following weeks of international diplomacy and calls for a truce by power-brokers Russia and Turkey. The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli had been under attack since last April from forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar, which on January 6 captured the strategic coastal city of Sirte. / AFP / Mahmud TURKIA
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The interior minister from Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) has called on the US to set up a base in the North African country.

Fathi Bashagha said the GNA had proposed hosting a base after US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper laid out plans to scale back the US military presence in Africa.

“The redeployment is not clear to us,” Mr Bashagha said, during in a phone interview on Friday. “But we hope that the redeployment includes Libya so it doesn’t leave space that Russia can exploit.”

“Libya is important in the Mediterranean. It has oil wealth and a 1,900-kilometre coast and ports which allow Russia to view it as the gate to Africa,” Mr Bashagha went on.

“If the US asks for a base, as the Libyan government we wouldn’t mind — for fighting terrorism, organised crime and keeping foreign countries that intervene at a distance. An American base would lead to stability,” he added.

The United States has broadly pivoted strategically from the Middle East and Africa to focus resources on countering threats from China and Russia.

Libya has been plagued by instability since 2011 and the toppling of 40-year dictator Muammar Al Qaddafi during the Nato-backed intervention in the country. Since 2014 the North African nation has been locked in a bitter civil war between eastern and western factions.

In April, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an ongoing assault on the seat of the GNA in Tripoli. The conflict has increasingly drawn in international actors.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed Ankara sent Syrian fighters to Libya to bolster the forces backing the GNA.

Mr Erdogan simultaneously hit out at Field Marshal Haftar and renewed allegations that Russia had sent 2,500 mercenaries from a private security company. The claims are denied by Moscow.

Mr Esper’s plan to pull troops from Africa provoked criticism in US Congress. In late January, the US defence secretary said the US wouldn’t withdraw all of its troops from Africa, but acknowledged a review is under way to account for a new strategy that makes countering Russia and China the priority.

The US has about 6,000 troops in Africa, including those guarding diplomatic facilities, according to a defence official.