Libyan Armed Forces

The Libyan Armed Forces (Arabic: القوات المسلحة الليبية‎) are, in principle, the state organisation responsible for the military defence of Libya, including ground, air and naval forces.[2]

Libyan Armed Forces
Arabic: القوات المسلحة الليبية
Current form2014 (Libyan National Army)
2016 (Libyan Army)
Service branches Libyan National Army (HoR-backed)
Libyan Army (GNA-backed)
 Libyan Navy
 Libyan Air Force
HeadquartersTripoli (GNA-backed)
Tobruk (HoR-backed)
Commander-in-ChiefFayez al-Sarraj (Libyan Army)
Khalifa Haftar (Libyan National Army)
Minister of DefenceSalah Eddine al-Namrouch
Military age18 (2012)[1]
Active personnelcc 32000+(GNA-backed Libyan Armed forces)
cc 25000+ (HoR-backed Libyan National Army)
Foreign suppliersHistoric:
 Soviet Union
 United Kingdom
 United States
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of Libya

The original army under the Libyan monarchy of King Idris I was trained by the United Kingdom and the United States. Since Muammar Gaddafi rose to power in 1969, Libya received military assistance from the Soviet Union. The Libyan military fought in several wars, including the Libyan–Egyptian War (1977) and the Chadian–Libyan conflict (1978–1987). After the 2011 civil war and the fall of Gaddafi, the armed forces consisted mostly of local militias that were frequently created or ceased to be active and made temporary shifting alliances.[3] During 2015–2018, after Khalifa Haftar was appointed in 2015 by the Libyan parliament in Tobruk as the supreme commander of the armed forces, he unified many militias into a regular hierarchical structure in the eastern part of Libya that became known as the core of the Libyan National Army (LNA).[3] As of November 2019, the regular core of the LNA (about 7000 soldiers) was complemented by Salafist militias and foreign mercenaries (about 18000 soldiers).[4][3]:7 As of 2019, the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) retained formal control of the militias nominally constituting the Libyan Army, while the Libyan Air Force was split into LNA and GNA controlled components.[3] The naval and coast guard forces were mostly under GNA control[5] with some coastal patrol boats under LNA control.[3]

Kingdom of Libya (1951–1969)Edit

The Kingdom of Libya gained its independence from Italy on 24 December 1951.[6] Under the Libyan monarchy there existed a federal army and local provincial police forces. The U.S. State Department reported in 1957 that the army numbered 1,835 men, while the police forces had around 5,000–6,000. King Idris of Libya and his government relied on the police for internal security and were anxious to increase the size of the national army to 5,000 troops. The United Kingdom had the primary role of training the Libyan Army, but the United States also contributed to training a 1,035-man contingent and was considering taking responsibility for training the entire army.[7] The U.S. also supplied the Royal Libyan Air Force, coming to an agreement in May 1957 to supply Libya with 10 Northrop F-5s.[8]

Libyan Arab Republic and Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1969–2011)Edit

A group of young officers and soldiers led by Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idris in a coup d'etat on 1 September 1969. The King spent several years under house arrest.[9][10]

The new Libyan Army under Gaddafi's Libyan Arab Republic fought a short border war with Egypt in July 1977, sent several thousand troops to support Idi Amin during the Uganda–Tanzania War in 1972 and again in 1978, and spent a decade trying to annex parts of northern Chad in 1978–1987.

The Libyan army was estimated to have 50,000 total troops as of 2009.[11]

Transition period (2011–2014)Edit

During the 2011–2014 transition period, the Libyan armed forces consisted mostly of a shifting ensemble of militias being created and dissolved and creating and dropping alliances.[3]


17th Thunderbolt Special Forces BrigadeEdit

  1. based in Tripoli (2013).[12]

27th BrigadeEdit

Leader: Mohammed Buzeiud; trained at Bassingbourn Barracks, UK (2014)[12]

  1. based in Tripoli (2013).[12]

Second civil war (2014–present)Edit

As of 2019, since the start of the Second Libyan Civil War in 2014, the Libyan armed forces, composed to a large degree of militias,[3] have been partially led by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, while remaining highly divided between those nominally led by the GNA and those nominally led by Khalifa Haftar in command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) on behalf of the part of the national parliament in Tobruk.[13][14] The forces included ground forces divided between the GNA-led Libyan Army (including militia coalitions such as the Tripoli Protection Force) and the LNA; the Libyan Air Force also divided between a GNA component and an LNA component; while the naval, and coast guard forces were mostly under GNA control[5] with some coastal patrol boats under LNA control.[3]

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the GNA, is nominally the supreme commander of the GNA forces.[15] The military is under the authority of the GNA Ministry of Defense, formerly led by Colonel Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi from 2016[16] to 2018, at which point Sarraj took over as defense minister.[17]

During 2015–2018, the LNA under Haftar's control unified many militias into a regular hierarchical structure in the eastern part of Libya and used online social networks to present the image of growing military and political power,[3] while still remaining, as of November 2019, dominated by Salafist militias and foreign members.[4] As of 2019, the LNA consisted of about 7000 regular soldiers and 18000 militia and foreign members.[3]:7


  1. ^ Libya – The CIA World Factbook
  2. ^ Africa :: Libya -- The World Factbook. CIA.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pack, Jason (2019-05-31). "Kingdom of Militias: Libya's Second War of Post-Qadhafi Succession". ISPI. Archived from the original on 2019-06-29. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  4. ^ a b el-Gamaty, Guma (2019-11-07). "Militias and mercenaries: Haftar's army in Libya". Middle East Eye. Archived from the original on 2019-11-09. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  5. ^ a b Abdullah, Walid; Aytekin, Emre (2019-08-27). "5 migrants die, 65 others rescued off Libyan coast". Anadolu Agency. Archived from the original on 2019-11-09. Retrieved 2019-11-09.
  6. ^ Libya (1951-present). University of Central Arkansas.
  7. ^ Shaloff, Stanley, and Glennon, John P. (1989). 173. National Security Council Report (U.S. POLICY TOWARD LIBYA). Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, Africa, Volume XVIII. Report originally published 29 June 1957.
  8. ^ "The Northrop F-5 Enthusiast Page". Archived from the original on 18 August 2011. Retrieved 23 March 2011.
  9. ^ Administrator. "The Senussi Family". Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  10. ^ Filiu, Jean-Pierre (5 October 2017). From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-revolution and Its Jihadi Legacy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190264062 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ IISS, The Military Balance 2009, p. 256
  12. ^ a b c "UK trains Libyan army in fight against al-Qaida and warlords". The Observer. Archived from the original on 2019-11-11. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  13. ^ Serraj appoints military chief of staff. Libya Herald. Published 1 September 2017.
  14. ^ Delalande, Arnaud (4 August 2016). Great, Now There Are Two Competing Libyan Air Forces. War is Boring.
  15. ^ PC President forms joint military operations room as war rocks Tripoli yet again. Libya Observer. Published 6 April 2019.
  16. ^ Ayyub, Saber.Opposing reactions to appointment of unity government’s defence minister Archived August 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Libya Herald. Published 21 January 2016.
  17. ^ Libyan Presidential Council gives its Defense Minister the sack. Libya Observer. Published 29 July 2018.