The foreign minister of Libya’s interim government Najla Manqoush confirmed on Sunday, October 3 that foreign mercenaries and soldiers have begun leaving the country. While addressing a press conference in Kuwait, she said her government will seek the complete withdrawal of these fighters during the upcoming conference on Libyan Stability which will be held towards the end of the month.
The Conference on Libyan Stability was announced by the head of Libya’s interim presidential council Mohamed al-Manfi as a precursor to the upcoming national elections in December.
According to the UN, there are around 20,000 foreign mercenaries in Libya. Most of them belong to countries such as Turkey, Russia, Chad and others. Except Turkish troops, most others are private mercenaries hired by various factions during the war in the country.
The war in oil-rich Libya broke out following the NATO-led invasion in 2011 against the longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Following Gaddafi’s assassination, different factions started fighting each other for control. These factions were backed by various regional and international powers. A ceasefire was achieved following the UN-brokered peace deal in December. The agreement also established a transitional administration in the country in March this year headed by prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and a three-member presidential council headed by al-Manfi.
The transitional government and the UN have repeatedly asked all foreign troops to leave the country as their presence may be used by the rival groups to question the legitimacy of the upcoming national elections in December and derail the peace process in the country.
Turkey has the largest number of troops in Libya. It sent them along with a large number of rebel fighters from Syria following an agreement with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the beginning of last year. It has refused to withdraw its troops, saying their presence in the country is legal. The Tripoli-based GNA was facing an onslaught from the forces led by Khalifa Haftar at the time. However, since the formation of the transitional authority, the GNA and other rival governments have been dismantled.