Fighters loyal to the Tripoli government, near Sirte. Photo: Mucahit Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty

With renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar's fighters retreating from Libya’s capital and militias supporting the UN-backed government on the offensive, the foreign countries powering Libya’s civil war are scrambling to adjust to a new reality.

The big picture: Russia, the UAE, Egypt and to a lesser extent France embraced the idea of a secular strongman taking control in Libya after years of chaos. But Haftar's offensive turned into a yearlong stalemate, and now a string of embarrassing defeats.

  • Turkey, the Tripoli government’s most powerful backer, stands to benefit from the shifting tide — possibly through the military use of Libyan ports and drilling rights in contested areas.
  • Russia, which sent aircraft and mercenaries in support of Haftar but has now reportedly pulled them off the front lines, is set to hold talks soon with Turkey on Libya as well as Syria.
  • Haftar, meanwhile, appeared alongside Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi last week to call for a ceasefire.
  • The Tripoli government is pushing on. Mohammed Abdallah, a U.S.-based adviser to the government, tells Axios that Haftar must be forced “out of Sirte and possibly oil ports before his reps will acknowledge reality.”
  • The war has been brutal. As Haftar’s forces retreated, at least eight mass graves were discovered.

What to watch: While Haftar’s position has been severely weakened, he still holds the sparsely populated but oil-rich East — a claim backed by Russian muscle. That’s led to speculation the country could be formally partitioned.

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!