Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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

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

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A fighter for Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli. Photo: Amru Salahuddien/picture alliance via Getty Images

Libya’s crippling “proxy war” will doom the country to become “a haven for terrorists and extremists” absent support from the U.S., the interior minister for the country’s UN-backed government tells Axios.

Between the lines: The U.S officially supports the government in Tripoli, but has played no part in the current civil war beyond calls for a political solution. Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries are bolstering renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar's offensive and dramatically changing the nature of the war, Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha told Axios Thursday evening in Washington.

The big picture: Libya has seen eight violent and chaotic years since the U.S. and European powers backed the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

  • The oil-rich country’s sporadic civil war resumed in earnest in April when Haftar — whose forces control sparsely populated Eastern Libya — launched a surprise offensive against the weak government.
  • It devolved into a bloody stalemate in the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital, with ongoing fighting fueled by foreign firepower, including armed drones.
  • Haftar's supporters include Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while Turkey backs the Tripoli government.
  • The NY Times reports that roughly 200 Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group are in Libya, taking Moscow’s backroom support for Haftar onto the battlefield. As the Times notes, it’s "the same playbook that made Moscow a kingmaker in the Syrian civil war."

Bashagha says he began to hear reports of Russian involvement over the summer, including from locals who described groups of light-skinned people “taking the roads through the desert.”

  • “By August, they were on the front lines,” he says. "The tactics used by Haftar’s forces drastically changed. The operations were becoming very professional.”
  • Suddenly airstrikes were being conducted from higher altitudes and at night, he says. Russian snipers have also been “very effective and very harmful to our forces.”

Bashagha rejects the suggestion that Russia's interventions in Libya and Syria indicate that in a conflict, Moscow is a stronger partner than Washington.

  • Russia wants to install authoritarian governments and Libya needs democracy, he says. He makes clear, though, that Tripoli is desperate for American support.
  • “Ironically, the countries that support Haftar while he attacks a government that is internationally recognized are also allied with the United States,” he says. “We are hoping that the U.S. will help push against the UAE and Egypt, to stop their meddling in our country.”
  • Bashagha says he’s optimistic a summit that Germany is attempting to organize will lead to “some sort of solution” that can guarantee democracy in Libya. But he says Russia can’t offer any such guarantee “while they have Wagner on the front lines.”

Zoom out: Bashagha is adamant that it was not a mistake for the U.S. to intervene in Libya in 2011, but says after Gaddafi’s downfall — and particularly after the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi — “America left us alone.”

“That American withdrawal made many regional countries have their proxy wars, their wars of interest on Libyan soil. And finally now it’s the Russians.”

Go deeper

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.