US military considers assistance to Tunisia amid Russia concerns

Moscow's involvement in Libyan conflict raises fears for regional security, US Africa Command says

A picture released by the US military's Africa Command on May 26, 2020 reportedly shows a Russian Mig-29 Fulcrum jet on Libyan soil. via AFP
A picture released by the US military's Africa Command on May 26, 2020 reportedly shows a Russian Mig-29 Fulcrum jet on Libyan soil. via AFP

The United States military said it is looking to send one of its Security Force Assistance Brigades to Tunisia for training, as part of its assistance programme for the north African country, amid concern over Russian activity in neighbouring Libya.

Libya's civil war has drawn in regional and global powers, prompting what the United Nations has called a huge influx of weapons and fighters into the North African nation, in violation of an arms embargo.

"As Russia continues to fan the flames of the Libyan conflict, regional security in North Africa is a heightened concern," the United States Africa Command said in a statement.

"We’re looking at new ways to address mutual security concerns with Tunisia, including the use of our Security Force Assistance Brigade," it added.

US Africom later said the "Brigade" referred to a small training unit as part of military assistance and in no way implied combat military forces.

Russian military personnel have delivered 14 MiG 29 and Su-24 fighter jets to the Libyan National Army's Jufra air base, the US military said on Wednesday, despite denials by the LNA and a Russian member of parliament.

The LNA is engaged in an offensive to seize the capital, Tripoli, where General National Assembly government supported by Turkey is based.

Turkey has been providing GNA-allied forces with military aid after striking a deal with the Tripoli government last year that grants it access to natural gas reserves in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

In a statement, Tunisia's defense ministry said the United States was a main partner in the effort to build the Tunisian army's operational capability.

Updated: May 30, 2020 06:45 PM

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