The U.S. military announced that it lost an unarmed drone that was flying over Tripoli. According to AFRICOM, the aircraft was engaging in reconnaissance in order to determine the current situation on the ground, namely security and violent activity by extremists.
Tripoli has been the site of intense fighting in recent months. Libya is currently in its second civil war, which began in 2015. The two primary factions are the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognised by the U.N. and backed by Turkey and Qatar , and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar, which is supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The conflict has also been of particular interest to southern European countries, particularly Italy that imports a lot of its oil from the region and views it as crucial in tackling migratory flows from sub-Saharan Africa.
The drone was shot down by Haftar’s forces; they claim that it was by mistake. According to a senior official in the LNA, the drone was mistaken for a Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle, which was deployed by the GNA. After apologising, the official “agreed with the Americans to coordinate their operations over Tripoli and its surrounding areas to avoid similar incidents in the future.”
This comes days after an Italian drone crashed inside the country. This suggests that the level of sophistication in the ongoing conflict is of a high-level. According to Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari, the drone was brought down by anti-aircraft weapons stationed southeast of Tripoli.
Both the GNA and the LNA are known to use drones as well. It has been reported that Haftar’s forces have benefitted from Chinese produced Wing Loong II operated by Emirati pilots since the LNA’s attempt to storm Tripoli earlier this year. In turn, this prompted Turkey to send Bayraktar TB2 drones to support the GNA — despite the existence of a U.N. arms embargo on the country. The TB2s have been used to pound LNA ground positions.
Libya has found itself in a state of anarchy ever since the toppling of its government by NATO-led forces in 2011. Since the brutal sodomisation and killing of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, the country has lacked central governance. This has proven to be fertile ground for jihadis and Islamists, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. While the war can broadly be described as a conflict between the GNA and LNA, both sides in fact constitute part of a multitude of autonomous militias.
Despite intense fighting and continued international involvement, neither side appears to be close to attaining a definitive victory.