The Bulgarian and United States governments have signed an agreement paving the way for joint training of up to 8 000 Libyan Army soldiers, on a rotational basis, at two Bulgarian military bases run by the two nations as international efforts to rebuild Libya’s post-war army intensify.
The agreement comes two weeks after Britain, Italy, Turkey and France agreed to provide professional military training for up to 7 000 more Libyan soldiers, bringing the number of soldiers earmarked for training abroad over the next eight years to 15 000.
Bulgarian Defence minister Angel Nayednov told local media in the capital Sofia batches of between 150 and 200 Libyan soldiers will be trained on a rotational basis in the US-Bulgarian bases at Novo Selo and Graf Ignatievo.
Naydenov said although his government approved the US request for the hosting and training of Libyan troops, the two countries still have to work out the finer details of the programme.
“This is a bilateral proposal which is also being discussed within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and could be expected to become part of NATO’s mission for post-war reconstruction of Libya,” said the minister.
In terms of the initial proposal, US and Bulgarian instructors will train between 150 and 200 Libyan soldiers on a rotational basis over the next five to eight years. This agreement follows those entered into by Italy, Turkey and Britain to train a further 7 000 Libyan Army soldiers in their respective countries.
A spokesman for Libyan Army Chief of Staff Colonel Ali Sheikhi told local media up to 360 soldiers will be sent in batches for training abroad as part of an international military assistance plan for rebuilding the Libyan armed forces.
He said the details of the programme were initially negotiated between Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and representatives of the three European governments in June. “It has been agreed with Italy, Turkey, France and Britain to train ground army units for three months for each group,” the spokesman said.
The programme is expected to start shortly with the first batch of 360 Libyan Army soldiers headed for training in Italy on September 27 where they will attend professional military courses for up to three months. The army said the soldiers would be trained in basic infantry skills and military leadership at a British Army location in Cambridgeshire.
Britain has agreed to train a total of 2 000 Libyan soldiers while France, Italy and Turkey will share the remaining 5 000 soldiers earmarked for EU training. Sheikhi said the Libyan government is currently engaged in discussions with the governments of Turkey, Italy and Britain to increase the number of trainees and the length of their courses.