Will Wagner's Support for Haftar Continue?
In Libya, Wagner forces support the powerful militia leader Haftar in the eastern part of the country. What will happen to the balance of power in the North African nation after the Wagner uprising in Russia?
The Complex Situation in Libya: Wagner and Haftar
Two governments claim power in the country, and four years ago, the influential militia leader Khalifa Haftar marched from the east towards Tripoli, aiming to capture the capital in the west. This advance plunged Libya into a protracted war.
Foreign Fighters Maintain Power Balance in Libya
Since then, Wagner mercenaries are said to have supported Haftar as snipers, artillery operators, and in anti-aircraft defense. However, when Turkey began supporting Haftar's opponents, he withdrew his forces, including the Wagner mercenaries. Currently, the Wagner forces are located in several bases in the center and south of the country, reinforcing the frontlines for Haftar.
Haftar Has Little to Fear from the Wagner Uprising
The presence of Wagner forces and Turkish fighters in Libya has maintained a balance of power, preventing an open war since mid-2020. Haftar controls the east and south of Libya, about two-thirds of the country, with the help of Wagner mercenaries deterring his opponents from advancing.
Uncertain Loyalties: Impact of the Wagner Uprising on Haftar
The loyalty of the Eastern European mercenaries remains uncertain. It is unclear whether Haftar funds them or if they receive money from another source. The recent events in Russia, where Wagner's leader Evgeny Prigozhin incited an armed uprising, may have caused concern and uncertainty for the Libyan militia leader, as Wagner is essential for maintaining control over the bases in central and southern Libya and deterring his opponents.
Haftar Likely to Face Few Consequences
Haftar probably does not have much to fear. Wagner mercenaries are considered a foreign policy tool of Russia, and political scientist Wolfram Lacher states that Moscow does not want to jeopardize its influence in Libya. Therefore, Russia will continue to support the Wagner mercenaries in Libya through military flights and the military base in Syria.
Understanding Russia's Interest in Libya
The presence of a significant number of combat aircraft stationed in Libya makes it clear that this is not the work of a private military company but of a state. Haftar understands that it is the Russian government's interest at stake, rather than just that of a Russian oligarch who may no longer enjoy Putin's favor.