TRIPOLI – Fathi Bashagha, the Interior Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), has expressed hopes that bringing stability to his war-torn country would become a top priority for the incoming Biden administration.
Speaking during an interview with the Associated Press, he also announced an upcoming major offensive by his Turkey-backed government forces in the country’s west to finish off militants and target human smugglers, and invited the United States to assist.
Since becoming interior minister in 2018, Bashagha has positioned himself as one of the most powerful figures in western Libya.
But his ministry has also struggled to control the patchwork of militias that hold sway in Tripoli and western Libya. Bashagha said he plans to tackle the problem by identifying militias that should be disarmed and those that could be assimilated into the security apparatus. But he said he has faced problems in implementing the plan, alleging that some militias are allied with other Tripoli officials and control some institutions, such as the intelligence apparatus.
“The problem is that some of the parts, institutions of the state provide support to these militias,” Bashagha said.
He said his new operation in the country’s west would also target migrant smugglers and could help address the root of the problem.
“The security and stability of Libya is important for Europe and the U.S.,” Bashagha said.
Bashagha said he hoped the U.S. would back the upcoming operation in the west. Turkey has already pledged support, he said. “We hope the U.S. will assist us … to finish off terrorist elements that have infiltrated Libya.”
“Our hopes were greatly lifted” by Joe Biden’s election victory, Bashagha AP during a phone interview. “We hope that the new administration has a major role in Libya’s stability and reconciliation.”
GNA and Turkey signed a number of security agreements in 2019, which paved the way for Ankara to send its own troops as well as Syrian mercenaries to fight with GNA against the Libyan National Army (LNA), an eastern Libya-based forces that launched a military campaign to take over Tripoli in April 2019.
In October, the warring sides, agreed to a cease-fire, which raised expectations of a peaceful resolution, and said that foreign fighters would leave Libya.
Bashagha told AP the withdrawal of foreign forces would be gradual.