Lack of U.S. support left desperate GNA to accept aid from Syrian extremists, Maiteeq says

The Address | Benghazi – Libya

WASHINGTON, DC – Member of the Presidential Council of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) is defending his government’s decision to accept help from Syrian militants suspected of having ties to extremist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, saying Tripoli had no choice after being ignored by the United States.

The militants were supplied by Turkey to support GNA against the Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched in April last an operation to liberate Tripoli from the grip of the militias.

“When you are drowning in water and somebody sends you a life jacket, what are you going to do — look at who sent the life jacket or take it?” said Deputy Head of GNA, Ahmed Omar Maiteeq.

He said the Syrian forces are helping prevent GNA in Tripoli from being overthrown by LNA.

A months-long military operation by LNA, leaving GNA scrambling and pleading with the Trump administration for help, Mr. Maiteeq said in an interview during a visit to Washington.

The Trump administration has been slow to respond. It prefers to stay out of the messy conflict in Libyadespite the North African nation’s vast oil reserves and strategic location as a Mediterranean gateway connecting Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“If the United States had said at that time to Haftar … to stop his attack on Tripoli, to come to the table and try to find solutions, this would have made a big difference,” Mr. Maiteeq told The Washington Times in an interview Thursday.

Turkey responded by airlifting Syrian militants — some of whom have al Qaeda and Islamic State ties — to fight on behalf of GNA in Tripoli, The Associated Press reported.

A Syrian war monitor, the Syrian Observatory, and two Libyan militia leaders told the news service that Turkey has brought more than 4,000 foreign fighters into Tripoliand that “dozens” are affiliated with extremist groups.

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