The Address | Benghazi – Libya
BENGHAZI – The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, is now in control of vast border areas with Algeria, Chad and Niger as part of its operation to clear southern Libyan territories from terrorists and criminals.
February witnessed a series of victories for LNA, which continued its territorial expansion town after town, often peacefully and with the residents’ welcoming.
On February 6th, LNA entered the town of Ubari where it managed to secure El Sharara oilfield, Libya’s largest oilfield. LNA’s take over of El Sharara oilfield was achieved as Ubari residents embraced LNA soldiers. The oilfield and its main facilities were secured completely in February 12th. LNA’s take over of El Sharara led subsequently to lifting the state of force majeure, which was declared by the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) in December last year.
LNA’s achievements were recognized by international powers. The French Foreign Ministry acknowledged on February 6th that LNA’s operation “made it possible to eliminate major terrorist targets,” and “could disrupt, on a long-term basis, the activities of the human traffickers who are continuing to plague this region, between the Sahel and the Mediterranean.”
LNA took over the town of Murzuq, southwest of Libya, on February 20th and managed to drive out Chadian armed rebels after fierce clashes.
On February 21st, LNA took control of El-Feel oilfield and handed it over to the guards of the oil facilities. The Italian multinational oil and gas company Eni, which partially operates the oilfield along with NOC, stated that LNA’s take over was done swiftly and peacefully.
“At no stage was El Feel field staff or facilities at risk. No impact on activities has been reported, the field is producing regularly,” said the company in a statement on February 25th.
On February 27th, LNA took over Traghan, a small town in Murzuq District in southwest Libya, amid welcome by the town’s residents.
On February 28th, LNA controlled al-Awainat town, located in the Sahara Desert. On the same day, LNA controlled the historic city of Ghat, located on the Libyan-Algerian border.
LNA “has now conquered almost 80% of the country and I do not think that it is difficult to get close to Tripoli,” stated Michela Mercuri, an Italian Professor of Contemporary History of the Mediterranean Countries at the University of Macerata.
Speaking to Switzerland-based newspaper Corriere del Ticino, Mercuri pointed out that Field Marshal Haftar, who is already “very popular” in Cyrenaica and Benghazi, has become popular “in other parts of the country, where many tribes have made arrangements with him in a completely peaceful way.”
In light of LNA’s territorial expansion, Mercuri said that she does not see “much room for any maneuver” for Head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Al-Sarraj, whom she says could be excluded “from the future equilibrium of the country.”
LNA’s major gains in February came after weeks of advances as part of a campaign to secure the country’s lawless south.
Launched in mid January in response to calls made by the region’s residents, LNA’s operation in the south has proven to be effective and successful. Many senior terrorist fighters of ISIS and al-Qaeda were eliminated. Several Chadian armed rebels were either killed or arrested. The security situation in the region has notably recovered ever since, with Sabha’s Security Directorate resuming its work for the first time in five years.