Skip to main content

CIA director Bill Burns arrives in Libya on surprise visit

Burns visit is most senior for a US official to Libya since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns arrived in Libya on Thursday on a surprise visit, where he is meeting with the country’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli, and other senior political and military leaders. 

The Libya Review tweeted a photo of Burns with Dbeibah in what constitutes the most senior visit for a US official to Libya since President Joe Biden took office in January of 2021. The CIA director was expected to meet with senior political, security and military officials, including the head of Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Counterterrorism, oil and gas, relations with Russia and its private mercenary group Wagner were reportedly on the agenda.

 

Why the meeting? According to Politico, the United States is interested in tracking Russia's Wagner Group, particularly its activities in Syria where US forces are stationed.

Privately owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner has 50,000 personnel stationed in foreign posts outside of Ukraine. It is operational in various countries including North African states -Libya included- and works closely with governments on military and political projects.

The visit also comes just weeks after Tripoli authorities handed over to the US a Libyan man who is suspected of involvement in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie bombing. While analysts speaking to Politico said the handover was likely aimed at garnering “US goodwill and favor amid the power struggles in Libya,” it sparked public outcry.

Know more: US intelligence services have accused Wagner of recruiting prisoners in Russia to fight in Ukraine and carrying out attacks in the city of Bakhmut.

Wagner and other similar groups have been under US sanctions to control its access to weapons, pushing the group to turn elsewhere, including North Korea.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, Wagner has been accused of targeting and torturing civilians.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said last December that more efforts are being made to ensure the group doesn’t get access to US technology or production equipment. Bloomberg reported that the Biden administration is considering the potential designation of Wagner as a foreign terrorist organization.

Libya has been divided and drowning in chaos since a revolt that ended with the killing of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country is split between two governments, one led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibah based in Tripoli, with the support of the United Nations and the international community, and another led by Fathi Bashagha in eastern Libya.

The chaos that ensued left a power vacuum that was filled by different groups and a power struggle with armed militia forces scattered everywhere.

Militant activities and sporadic warfare have spread across the country and across the border into the Egyptian desert area.

 

 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial