Officials from Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army announced that they are launching the final stage of Tripoli operations and have made numerous gains around the Libyan capital. These claims, however, have been tempered by realities on the ground, as the stalemated enters its eighth month.
It has now been eight months since the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar and nominally loyal to the House of Representatives (HoR) Government in Tobruk, has launched military operations against the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) forces in Tripoli. What was meant to be a quick offensive to capture the Libyan capital and consolidate Haftar’s power has, instead, descended into a stalemate, with the forces of the LNA and GNA fighting over the same stretch of land amidst worsening humanitarian conditions across Tripoli.
According to Ahmad al-Mahjoub, the Chief Morale Officer of the LNA, the situation is set to change. He announced that the LNA is pushing against the GNA in the Abu Salim region of Tripoli. LNA gains were also reported in the Yarmouk and Khalaltat areas. The Head of the LNA-affiliated Western Police Force, Mokhtar Farnana, said that these gains represent the start of the final phase of the Tripoli operations. Farnana announced the state of the operations during a meeting with other LNA commanders.
He noted that a number of issues, such as the protection of civilians, are paramount. He also noted that despite the gains made by the LNA, GNA-affiliated militias remain present. As a result, the LNA has reinforced its positions around Tripoli, adding that he has received specific orders from Haftar to protect civilians.
However, the LNA’s claim of protecting civilian lives has been undermined by the growing civilian death toll resulting from airstrikes and shelling along the heavily-urbanised Tripoli region, as well as incidents such as an LNA airstrike at a wedding in Murzuq where dozens of people were killed.
Furthermore, despite the optimism, the future of the LNA operations remain unclear. The LNA’s gains were tempered by a number of losses such as Tawisha near the Tripoli International Airport over the past 24 hours as a result of a GNA counterattack. A number of areas, such as Tarhuna which was lauded for its post-conflict stability by LNA-affiliated media, also experienced clashes. Indeed, as recently as September, LNA officials warned that the conflict around the Libyan capital would be lengthy.
With the battle in Tripoli remaining stalemated despite the optimism of the LNA and no political solution in sight between the GNA and HoR, the future of Libya remains far from certain.