A rapprochement raises concerns in Washington
Wagner’s forces announce by shooting down the American plane areas of influence against the United States in eastern Libya, thus undermining AFRICOM’s anti-terror strategy, which gives Russia room to maneuver and pressure against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis.
The downing of a US army drone, with Russian weapons, constitutes a new and indirect confrontation on Libyan soil, which has turned into a battlefield between the two largest powers in the world, over areas of control and influence.
Sources indicated that the American plane was flying near the vicinity of the command center of the Libyan National Army forces led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in the Rajma area, near Benina Airport, which some news websites claim was conducting reconnaissance and spying on the mercenaries of the Russian Wagner Company, who are deployed in the area. .
Russian forbidden zone of influence
The Libyan strategic analyst, Adel Abdel Kafi, goes about considering the downing of the drone as a “direct US-Russian confrontation,” and explains that “Wagner (mercenaries) are undermining AFRICOM’s air operations” in the region.
Abdel Kafi concludes that, in this operation, Wagner’s mercenaries declare “areas of influence against the United States, and that they are in control of the military bases in the east, and undermining the strategy of AFRICOM and the US counter-terrorism policy.”
Since 2011, the United States has launched many air strikes in Libya with armed drones, in different regions of the country, targeting in particular elements of the terrorist organization ISIS, and intensified between 2016 and 2017.
Observers believe that the presence of drones in Libyan airspace is not a rare thing, not to mention reconnaissance planes, so the timing of dropping the American drones raises more than one question, especially since it coincides with the Russian military operation in Ukraine, and the United States and its European allies imposed harsh sanctions on Moscow, not to mention their support for Kyiv. with weapons.
“When a Russian air defense system shot down an American reconnaissance plane, which has been reconnaissance of the region repeatedly over the past year, and therefore (the matter) is not new, but the new decision is to shoot it down, as an indication that this The area has become forbidden to these reconnaissance planes.”
According to these equations, Russia declares that eastern Libya is its exclusive area of influence, and will no longer allow American planes to fly over it, or else it will be shot down.
Wagner numbers doubled after declining
Western parties recorded, in a strange paradox, that Wagner’s numbers doubled in Libya, after they were decreasing due to the war in Ukraine. After talking about 2,200 Wagner members, 1,300 of them left, and 900 remained in Libya, according to Adel Abdel Kafi, in an interview with Anadolu Agency last March.
But the US Financial Times website last April, just a month later, revealed that 5,000 Wagner fighters remained in Libya, despite the withdrawal of more than 1,000 members to participate in the war against Ukraine.
The method of maneuvering through withdrawal and then redeployment in the same place was repeated more than once in Libya and even in Syria, through which Russia aims to mislead its opponents and enemies.
Observers believe that the survival of 5,000 Wagner elements in Libya means that their numbers have doubled, and that Moscow does not intend to soon abandon its positions in the country, but rather strengthens them in the context of its intense conflict with the West.
Washington does not hide its concern about the presence of Wagner in Libya, and its threat to the southern wing of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it seeks, through its drones, to monitor their activities and movements.
Adel Abdel Kafi: Wagner mercenaries undermine AFRICOM’s air operations in the region
Russia is also seeking to establish its feet in Libya, especially in the eastern side, through its support for the forces of the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, but its main focus is in the city of Sirte (450 km east of Tripoli), Al-Jufra Air Base (center), and Brak Al-Shati Air Base (southwest). .
The Russian military presence in Libya gives Moscow the ability to maneuver against the advance of NATO towards its western borders.
These developments are similar to a game of chess, in which Russia is trying to prevent its encirclement from the western front, so it is waging a military war in Ukraine to stop NATO’s progress in the east, and pressing south through Libya through oil and migrants.
Wagner even threatens France’s allies in the coast, especially Chad, to be able to maneuver in more than one spot in the world, using hybrid warfare methods, so as not to be surrounded and besieged, and deprive it of navigation in warm waters.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio warned against these maneuvers, when he stated last July that “the presence of (Russian mercenaries) in the country from the Wagner company, benefiting from the logistical support of Russian aviation, continues to represent a factor of instability for the southern flank. NATO, and the entire Mediterranean region.
Spy mission or to secure the ambassador?
On August 22, the Libyan National Army announced that it had shot down a drone carrying two missiles near Benina Airport in Benghazi (east). Two days later, the US military command in Africa, AFRICOM, revealed the dependency of the MK9 Reaper drone on it.
Although the Libyan National Army forces adopted the operation to shoot down the American plane, Washington decided to open an “investigation into the cause of the crash of a reconnaissance drone,” which means its questioning of the Libyan narrative, while not excluding Wagner’s involvement in the operation.
While websites and accounts specialized in military affairs suggested that the American drone was spying on Wagner and its movements in eastern Libya, an AFRICOM spokesman explained in a press statement that “the directed plane was in Libyan airspace to support the diplomatic commitments of the American ambassador, Richard Norland, to be made in the east of the country. in coordination with the relevant authorities.
Local media claimed that the US ambassador canceled a scheduled visit to eastern Libya, which was not confirmed by the official account of the US embassy on social networks.
Observers believe that it is difficult to be convinced that the Libyan National Army forces, with their modest capabilities, can shoot down the “largest armed drone” known to the United States, even though the Taliban had previously claimed to have shot down a drone of the same type, as is the case in Syria and Yemen.
Military experts believe that shooting down this plane in more than one country shows that it is not invulnerable to anti-aircraft air systems, although it flies at medium to high altitudes, and shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft systems such as the Russian SA-7 or the American Stinger cannot shoot it down because its range is less than 7 thousand meters.
The MK9 Reaper can fly at high altitudes of up to 15,000 meters, for a period of 30 hours and up to 42 hours without interruption, and an open range because it is controlled via satellite, and it can carry a significant amount of missiles and bombs up to 3.2 Tons of missiles.
These specifications are significantly superior to Chinese unmanned aircraft such as the “Wing Long” and “CH-5”, in terms of range, altitude and payload.
The American drone performs several tasks, such as reconnaissance, espionage, transmitting information, attacking ground and even air targets, as it can carry air-to-air missiles, and carry out the tasks of the F-16, according to experts and specialized websites.
Given these specifications, its price is high, estimated at 64 million dollars, and the Emirates sought to buy 18 “MK9 Reaper” aircraft in a deal worth 2.9 billion dollars, but the deal did not take place, as the United States had previously refused to sell it to many Arab countries.
This type of aircraft is owned by Britain, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, in addition to the United States. This plane carried out many operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, but the most famous of them was the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The survival of 5,000 Wagner elements in Libya means that their numbers have doubled, and that Moscow does not intend to soon abandon its positions in the country.
And the media is talking about the US Air Force’s intention to reduce production of the “MK9 Reaper” after purchasing only 24 units in 2021, and the possibility of closing the production line, given the Air Force’s conclusions about its unsuitability for direct combat with a sophisticated enemy.
Followers believe that shooting down a plane with these specifications in Libya will push Washington either to escalate the confrontation with Russia, and thus put pressure on its allies in Libya, or to continue the policy of retreat and reduce its activity in the Middle East and North Africa, which is currently expected.
This incident will accelerate the decision to stop the production line of the MK9 Reaper, with the successive downing of the MK9 Reaper on more than one front, especially since its large size facilitates the process of monitoring and targeting
First published in alarab-co-uk