After Libya’s renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar failed to seize Tripoli following a 14-month military campaign, his foreign backers are repositioning themselves on the battlefield for maximum leverage, analysts say.
In the past month, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) recaptured strategic locations including the al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna, Haftar’s last major stronghold in western Libya, which had been used to help launch an offensive against the capital.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has since been pushed back from Tripoli and has withdrawn to Sirte, 450km (280 miles) east of Tripoli, and the al-Jufra airbase in central Libya.
Following a series of victories with the help of Turkey, the GNA now controls much of western Libya.
Forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government have launched an offensive now to capture the coastal city of Sirte, located close to major energy export terminals.
Libya, home to the richest proven crude reserves in Africa, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 civil war that saw the overthrow and killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The country is now divided into two administrations: Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA based in Tripoli, and the House of Representatives allied with Haftar, who controls the oil-producing regions of eastern and central Libya.
Over the years the conflict has spiralled into a major proxy war, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Russia and Egypt backing Haftar, while Turkey supports al-Sarraj.