US officials are also concerned with the long-term goals of the Kremlin ally in the war-torn state. An intelligence official said the trench is a sign that Wagner, who the official said has its largest global presence in Libya, is “settling in for the long haul.”
The trench, which extends dozens of kilometers south of the populated coastlines around Sirte, leading to the Wagner-controlled stronghold of al-Zufra, can be seen on satellite imagery and extended through a series of elaborate fortifications Can.
CNN has contacted the Russian government for comment and received no response.
The moat and fortifications are designed to prevent or prevent land attacks on LNA-controlled areas in the east, passing through Libya’s populated coastal areas, the most since the fall of Moammar Gaddifi’s regime in 2011 Conflict has been observed.
The GNA has posted images of excavators and trucks making excavators and trucks that run side by side and said work is on as of this month.
The US intelligence official said the trench is another reason, “We see no intention or movement by the Turkish or Russian military to follow the UN-Broker Agreement. It is already derailing the fragile peace process and the ceasefire Has the ability to take off. There will be a very difficult year ahead. “
Open-source monitoring states that it has mapped a series of more than 30 defensive positions dug into deserts and hills that span approximately 70 kilometers.
Satellite imagery from Maxer shows both the moat dragging along a main road, and the fortifications dug, also by Wagner merchants and their contractors.
The images show the construction of the citadel around the Jufra airbase, and further south also the Brak airfield, where clear radar defenses have been installed and strengthened.
Salahdin al-Namorsh GNA Defense Minister to CNAN said, “I don’t think anyone is digging today and leaving these reinforcements soon.”
Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group told CNN that the trench is “really worrying,” and that the talk “has been circulating among diplomats for the past few weeks. It has been going on and would suggest that Moscow strengthen its presence Is curious. ” Libya. “
Analysts have said that the Kremlin is eager to increase its military presence and influence in the Mediterranean Sea, along with NATO’s southern underbelly, with the added bonus of participation and profit from Libya’s oil industry.
Ghazini said that the two sides continued to maintain and create the presence of foreign mercenaries, accusing them of augmenting the supply of military equipment with the GNA under a public agreement with Turkey to support both armies.
The US intelligence official said that the number of mercenaries on both the GNA and LNA sides was relatively high: Libya currently stands at 10,000, according to the September AFRICOM report on the matter.
The US official said that about 2,000 Wagner deployed Libyan foreign mercenaries – mostly Russian or former Soviet Union citizens.
A spokesman for the LNA, Major General Khalid al-Mahjab, confirmed the existence of the trenches to CNN, but described them as “temporary” sand barriers and trenches in an open area for defense and fighting “. He denied the presence of 2,000 Wagner traders, and said the advisors were “announced long ago.”
But, a confidential UN report obtained by CNN in June described Wagner fighters as “an effective force multiplier”.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that there were no Russians in Libya, but if they are not representing Russia. Russia has always denied that it uses mercenaries to fight for it.
UN inspectors recorded dozens of Russian flights to Libya during 2020.
The US Africa Command publicly called on Russia for expansion, saying it was similar to the action in Syria.
In June, the head of the defense committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, Viktor Bondarev, said that the US claim was “foolishness” and suggested that they were older Soviet aircraft from elsewhere in Africa.
A Western diplomat with knowledge of arms movements in Libya said that Russian flights in the country had decreased from their peak in August to only a dozen monthly in late 2020. “They are just ticking the ground,” adding that Turkey was flying in equal numbers.
Turkey’s military has been open about its desire for a permanent presence, posting images of its military giving the GNA “base defense training” over the past week.
“This is a massive effort,” the US official said. “They are building facilities, bringing in personnel and equipment. They have received the HAWK Air Defense Missile Battery, 3D [KALAKAN] Radar. ”
Small modifications to the satellite imagery of the port of Al-Khom suggest that it can be read for a long-term Turkish naval presence, which has been ruled out by al-Namroash of the GNA.
A senior Turkish security official told CNN that they “continue to provide military training, cooperation and advice to the GNA’s needs and demands.”
The US intelligence official revealed that thousands of Syrian mercenaries were taken to Turkey and supported in Libya. The US official said that during Turkey’s support for the Azerbaijan government during their recent conflict with Armenia, the planes helped carry hundreds of Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan, which the US official said.
“It appeared that there was some movement of some Syrian mercenary forces towards the conflict [Nagorno Karabakh]. Small numbers, in the low hundreds, ”the official said.
Analysts said Russian-backed Wagner forces intended to provide influence to Moscow but not obligations. Jalal Harchai, a senior fellow at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, said the Wagner mercenaries were “disposable disabilities” – and a “force that does not exist, according to the official version of the Russian state. It is not.” This means it is formidable, scary and not quite effective, but it provides the greatest flexibility for the Kremlin.
Gazini said: “Russian policy in Libya is opaque – what Russia wants to do. From the evidence on the ground, it seems that they want to strengthen their influence, or find a way out.”
Yet the US official combined the Russian build-up with critical personnel and advanced equipment, but one that presented ethical concerns. “The fourth generation fighter jet and Pantir missile systems are being operated by less capable, poorly trained Wagner mercenaries,” the official said.
“Libya has complex challenges, including al Qaeda and ISIS, and mercenaries with their poor training, experience, and lack of respect for human rights and international law make those weapons systems most related to those in their hands . “
Analysts say Wagner’s presence and trench seem to be of benefit to LNA chief General Hafter, but the Russian presence seems more capable of Moscow’s agenda.
The Western diplomat said that to maintain relevance to the week, Libya needs constant conflict. “That becomes irrelevant overnight if the conflict is over,” the diplomat said. “And if it does not end on its own terms then it becomes susceptible to accusations of war, etc.”