Conflict in North AfricaIn Libya, Russia sinks its teeth into another proxy war
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced last week that Russia had deployed at least 14 warplanes to Libya in support of private military contractors known as the Wagner Group.
It was the first time Russian armed forces were identified in the North African country. Although the Wagner Group purportedly enjoys Russian state backing, the Kremlin had initially stopped short of deploying official military assets to Libya, despite Moscow's support for general-turned-warlord Khalifa Haftar.
"For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict," said U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads AFRICOM. "We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya – every step of the way."
The U.S. general noted that neither Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) nor private military contractors could "arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support – support they are getting from Russia.
"Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favour in Libya," Townsend said.
The UN said Russia's Wagner group already has up to 1,200 mercenaries in Libya.