Libya marks 52nd anniversary of British Evacuation Day

Libya marks 52nd anniversary of British Evacuation Day

Libya marks today the 52nd anniversary of British Evacuation Day which took place on March 28, 1970.

On this day, British forces were expelled and their bases in Libya were evacuated for the first time since they entered the country after World War II. About 400 men of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Royal Air Force sailed from Tobruk for Cyprus during the enforced evacuation which took place under the Libyan Arab Republic (1969-1977).

The British Evacuation Day was followed by the U.S. withdrawal from Wheelus Air Base, an American military base in Tripoli which at that time was considered the largest U.S. military facility outside the U.S.

Prior to the coup d’état of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1969, the U.S. and the Kingdom of Libya had already reached agreement on U.S. withdrawal from Wheelus. This proceeded according to plan, and the facility was turned over to the new Libyan authorities on June 11, 1970.

Shortly after the evacuation of British troop, a nationwide celebration took place in Libya on March 31 to mark the end of nearly 30 years of British occupation; and Gaddafi’s government had declared March 28 a national holiday.

In its report on the event 52 years ago, Reuters remarked that, with British troops pulling out of Libya, North Africa was left without British servicemen for the first time since the occupation of Egypt in 1882.

Since the British and U.S. evacuation on 1970, no foreign troops had ever established an official stronghold in Libya until 2019 when the Libya Government of National Accord (GNA), under the leadership of former prime minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, signed a security deal with Ankara to allow entrance of Turkish troops to the country.

In 2020, American news website The Intercept obtained documents which shows that U.S. AFRICOM had a number of bases in Libya until 2019. However, a U.S. military official told The Intercept that the American troops “temporarily relocated from [Libya] in response to security conditions on the ground”.

On the other hand, the fate of Turkish troops in the country remains unknown. Earlier this month, the Libyan House of Representatives, which was vehemently against Turkish military presence in the country, named a new prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, to lead the country.

Despite being considered close to Turkey, Bashagha has told the press in a recent interview that his government will abide by any decision made by House of Representatives regarding the Turkish security deal.