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Analysts on Libya: Haftar's Sirte Seizure Major Blow to GNA

Analysts on Libya: Haftar's Sirte Seizure Major Blow to GNA

Thursday, 9 January, 2020 - 06:45
FILE PHOTO: A member of the central security support force holds a weapon during a security deployment in the Tajura neighborhood, east of Tripoli, Libya December 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat

The capture of the strategic city of Sirte on Monday by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar was a major setback for Tripoli's Government of National Accord (GNA), analysts say.

The fresh advance by the LNA comes as Turkey deploys troops -- 35 so far, in a training capacity -- to bolster the GNA that is led by Fayez al-Sarraj

Sirte was controlled by forces loyal to the GNA after they expelled ISIS extremists from the coastal city in 2016.

But the city fell to the LNA which has been fighting to seize Tripoli from the GNA since last April.

Many in Sirte welcomed Haftar's forces as they did not support the GNA.

Along with undermining the morale of GNA forces, "the loss of Sirte will significantly reduce (their) military and strategic position vis-a-vis" the LNA, said Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher at the Clingendael Institute.

Since Haftar launched his Tripoli offensive, his troops have also mobilized to block any potential counter attack on Libya's "oil crescent" in the northeast.

Haftar feared GNA forces could use Sirte's airbase to carry out strikes on his eastern stronghold, according to Harchaoui. 

The loss of Sirte also puts pressure on the eastern flank of pro-GNA forces defending the capital in Tripoli's southern suburbs, Harchaoui added.

According to Emad Badi of the Middle East Institute, Haftar is looking to turn Misratan forces towards Sirte in order to weaken Tripoli's defenses.

His forces may look to open a new front against Misrata, 200 kilometers east of Tripoli, which previously blocked their advance west, according to Hamish Kinnear, an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

"Strategically, the loss of Sirte makes it much more difficult for GNA-affiliated forces to harass Haftar's supply lines," said Wolfram Lacher, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

The loss of Sirte comes as Turkey is sending troops to support the GNA against Haftar

"The loss of Sirte makes Turkish support all the more urgent for the GNA," said Lacher.

While Turkish drones have resumed attacking pro-Haftar forces in recent days, the GNA still needs greater air capabilities, Lacher told Agence France Presse.

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