Nepal Army wants to withdraw its peacekeepers from Libyan capital

  • Although officials say Nepali troops don’t face imminent danger, the willingness to pull out its soldiers comes days after the US and India withdrew their forces
- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Apr 10, 2019-

The Nepal Army has said it would like to withdraw its troops deployed as peacekeepers in Libya as the security situation in the war-torn North African country continues to deteriorate.

The Nepali contingent is currently guarding the headquarters of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Libyan capital Tripoli, which houses Ghassan Salamé, special representative to UN secretary general, among others top officials.

The Nepal Army, through the Office of the Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations in New York, has informed the UN about its willingness to withdraw its troops.

Brigadier General Yam Dhakal, spokesperson for the Nepal Army, told the Post that because Nepali blue helmets are guarding the headquarters, it will depend on Salamé—on how long he wants to stay there—before the 231-strong Nepali troops return. Only one official, who has been deployed as an observer, is staying in Tunisia while the remaining 230 are in Tripoli.  

“Given the deteriorating security situation, we have conveyed our willingness to pull our troops out,” Dhakal told the Post.

The Nepal Army’s decision to evacuate its troops comes after other countries, including the United States and India, withdrew their forces from Tripoli.

As the battle for control of the Libyan capital escalated on Sunday with rival militias trying to stop the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, an aspiring strongman, from taking control of the city, the United States military evacuated its small contingent of troops. India also withdrew its contingent of 15 police personnel serving as peacekeepers from the oil-rich country, saying the situation in Libya had suddenly worsened.

The Nepali troops, under the command of a lieutenant colonel, are one of the first peacekeeping contingents to be deployed in Libya, which has been reeling from violent political turmoil after 2011.

The situation turned tense after the Libyan National Army led by Haftar attempted to seize the power earlier this month. Haftar’s army, according to the international media, on Monday carried out an airstrike at Tripoli’s last civilian airport. The airport, however, reopened on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who is backed by the UN, has called Haftar’s actions an attempted coup. The army general has been demanding to take power unless an elected government takes the charge.

As military assault escalated this week, the United Nations has also been forced to postpone a national conference, which it expected to be fruitful in finding a meeting point for the presidential and parliamentary elections, according to the Guardian. The two-day conference in the town of Ghadames was due to be attended by 120 delegates next week.

The Nepal Army, however, has maintained that despite the tensions, members of its peacekeeping force are safe.

“Our forces are safe,” Dhakal told the Post, “and there is no immediate security threat.”

Published: 11-04-2019 06:30

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