The United States is “very concerned” about the intensification of the conflict in Libya, with a rising number of reported Russian mercenaries supporting Khalifa Haftar’s forces on the ground turning the conflict into a bloodier one, according to a senior State Department official.
The United States continues to recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Al-Serraj, the official said, but added that Washington is not taking sides in the conflict and is talking to all stakeholders who could be influential in trying to forge an agreement.
“We are very concerned about the military intensification,” the official told Reuters.
“We see the Russians using hybrid warfare, using drones and aircraft…This isn’t good.” The official added.
“With the increased numbers of reported Wagner forces and mercenaries on the ground, we think it’s changing the landscape of the conflict and intensifying it,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to a shadowy group of mercenaries known as Wagner.
Haftar is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials.
The issue has come up in a meeting earlier this month between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Pompeo said there could be no military solution to the fighting and that Washington had warned countries against sending weapons to Libya, adding that he reminded Lavrov specifically of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.
The U.S. official said the involvement of Russian mercenaries so far has not tipped the conflict in favor of Haftar.
“It’s creating a bloodier conflict…more civilian damage, damage to infrastructure like the airports..hospitals have been targeted. But at the same time we don’t see that Haftar is gaining ground.” He remarked.