The United States may send a brigade of troops for training purposes to Tunisia to counter the alleged ‘Russian threat’ to regional security, US African Command (AFRICOM) announced, citing a May 28 telephone conversation between AFRICOM Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend and Tunisian Defence Minister Imed Hazgui.
“As Russia continues to fan the flames of the Libyan conflict, regional security in North Africa is a heightened concern. We’re looking at new ways to address mutual security concerns with Tunisia, including the use of our Security Force Assistance Brigade,” Townsend said, his comments appearing in an AFRICOM press statement late Friday.
“Tunisia is a prime example of how US support to our African partners aids long-term self-sufficiency, security and development. Our relationship with Tunisia is centered on enhancing our partnership to achieve mutual security goals,” the general added.
NEWS: Commander reaffirms partnership with #Tunisia— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) May 29, 2020
“Many of our African partners are under siege from malign actors & terrorist networks. We remain committed to working together to deliver solutions to common challenges.” - Gen. Townsend pic.twitter.com/oGt9xwoauq
Townsend’s remarks were echoed Friday by AFRICOM deputy director for intelligence Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, who accused Russia of “executing the same playbook” in Libya as it supposedly had earlier in Ukraine and Syria to “violate sovereign nations” and destabilize them for the sake of gaining a foothold.
Russian officials have vocally denied US claims of illegal Russian intervention in the Libyan civil conflict. On Wednesday, Senate State Defence Committee chairman Viktor Bondarev dismissed AFRICOM’s allegations this week about the deployment of as many as “14 Russian MiG-29s” to the Libyan National Army as “nonsense.”
we appreciate the american aid intentions BUT if that comes to deploying actual fighting forces in our lands, then expect protests from the majority of the public, myself included... training? sure! but no foreign soldier should come for the purpose of staying!!! 😠— waelXcm (@waelXcm) May 30, 2020
“The MiG-29 is undoubtedly one of the best frontline fighters created by the Soviet aircraft industry. It’s easy to fly, simple to operate and very reliable. But to suggest that one could use a few MiG-29s to capture Libya’s coast is nonsense,” Bondarev said. He added that Libya and other African countries have had access to MiG-29s since the 1980s. “Therefore, if Libya has these planes, they are not Russian, but Soviet,” he stressed.
Andrei Krasov, first deputy chairman of the Duma’s Defence Committee, added that “Russia’s position is well known; we are in favour of ending the bloodshed in Libya, we urge all parties to the conflict to refrain from using weapons and sit at the negotiating table.” According to Krasnov, AFRICOM’s claims about ‘Russian planes’ do “not correspond with reality.”
On Tuesday, the Libyan National Army similarly dismissed AFRICOM’s allegations, calling them “strange” amid the US’s failure to “mention the interference and expansion of Turkey in our country and the transfer of tens of thousands of mercenaries from Turkey.”
Respectfully, how have you turned a blind eye to NATO Ally flying thousands of terrorists into Libya! We see you ignoring and have since December.https://t.co/r2RmOZ6wqU— Shannon (@Avery1776) May 29, 2020
Turkey began sending troops to Libya in January to shore up the US and UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in its ongoing campaign against the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, which pledges its allegiance to the Tobruk-based government.
Civil War in Libya
Fighting between the GNA-LNA began in the years that followed after the two forces began wresting control over areas of Libya from among dozens of militias, terrorist groups and criminal gangs operating in the war-torn country. In April 2019, the LNA began an offensive on Tripoli. Several international efforts to resolve the conflict have so far proven fruitless, with a peace conference organized in Berlin in January by Russia, the US, the EU, Turkey, Egypt and other countries ending in failure.