Does the UAE Have a Military Base in Eastern Libya?

The New Arab has reported that a Libyan military official formerly affiliated to Khalifa Haftar confirmed that the UAE now maintains a military base that supports the operations of the general in eastern Libya. The base is located south of the city of al-Marj on the site of an old airstrip in a region known as al-Sulaiyah, the source said.

The source added that Haftar’s Emirati allies want to maintain a presence on Libyan territory in order to act in support of his military operations, and to protect his main base in al-Marj.

Also, Libya Express reported that the UAE has established a military base in eastern Libya in support for the Operation Dignity Forces, led by Khalifa Haftar, which are part of the Tobruk-based House of Representative (HoR).

The UAE-staffed military base in eastern Al-Marj city is the place from where Haftar’s forces together with UAE troops is operating AT-802 light attack aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery as obtained by IHS Jane’s shows, according to Libya Express.

IHS Jane’s revealed that Al-Khadim Airport is in Al-Marj province around 100 km from Benghazi, where the UAE aircraft are supporting “so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) forces”, which are Khalifa Haftar-led Dignity Operation forces fighting Benghazi Shura Council fighters in Benghazi.

While it styles itself as the country’s military, the Khalifa Haftar-led LNA is a predominantly eastern Libyan militias that do not recognise the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, the website disclosed.

“There was very little infrastructure at Al-Khadim at the beginning of this year, but this began to change in March, when new buildings and work on a new aircraft parking area (ramp) could be seen in the satellite imagery.” IHS Jane’s added.

It added that by 27 June hangars were under construction next to the new ramp, which had not been paved at that time.

Afterwards, an operational area had been set up on the existing ramp where two Air Tractor aircraft, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, two Il-76 transport aircraft, one Il-18 turboprop airliner, and two UAVs were present, the website unveiled.

It added that around this time a photograph emerged on social media showing an Air Tractor purportedly deployed to an unidentified location in Libya. The aircraft could be identified as an AT-802 that had been modified by the US company IOMAX so that it can carry an electro-optical pod, guided bombs, missiles, rockets, and guns.

The number of Air Tractors at Al-Khadim had increased to six on 23 July, when two Black Hawks, two UAVs, and a single Il-76 could also be seen by IHS Jane’s.

The website concluded by saying that on September 26, the Benghazi Shura Council, which is fighting Dignity Forces in Benghazi, released an infographic claiming it was being attacked by MiG-23 jets and Mi-8 helicopters operated by Haftar’s forces, Emirate AT-802 aircraft, and Predator UAVs operated by both the UAE and Italy, which explains the validity of the satellite imagery.

Tobruk’s HoR Denies

Ahmed Aboud, the political adviser to the Chairman of the House of Representatives in Tobruk denied a report published by  “IHS Jane’s” that affirmed the presence of an Emirati military air base in eastern Libya. However, the High Council of the Libyan State considered the report of ‘Jane’s’ as an evidence of the existence of the base and described it as an Emirati violation of the Libyan sovereignty, according to Al-Jazeera.