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article imageOp-Ed: General Haftar changes stance on cooperation with Libya militia

By Ken Hanly     Jun 26, 2016 in Politics
Tobruk - In Benghazi yesterday, speaking to activists, General Khalifa Haftar, commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), said he could work with some militia groups in western Libya.
Up until now, Haftar has insisted he cannot work with the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) until all its militias had been disbanded. Indeed, Haftar said it was "unthinkable" that his LNA join with the GNA forces in their present state. Neither Haftar nor the HoR have so far recognized the GNA. This is a sudden change of position. It may be designed to split the Misrata militia. Haftar specifically mentioned that he could work with the Rada security force, Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade, and Abdul; Ghani Al-Kiki, "but in a limited way" in establishing security in Tripoli. However, he said that it would never be possible to make peace with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group whom he described as an extension of Al Qaeda under another name. Many Tripoli militia might not accept the presence of the LNA under Haftar in Tripoli.
Haftar said that the majority of Misratans wanted peace: “We all have relatives, friends and business partners in Misrata, and we will never let them down”. After earlier charging the Misrata militia as being terrorists, he now describes Misrata as a peaceful city and even says he can work with some leaders of militia opposed to Haftar's Operation Dignity. Mentioning some leaders of such militia, Haftar said: "Kikli, Kara, Tajouri, Bishir are all Libyans and they wanted to defend their streets so that people enjoy good life." The anti-opposition figures are all commanders of militia from Tripoli. Earlier this year, Haftar threatened to move his LNA against Misrata and Tripoli in order to liberate them from terrorism. In 2014 his air force struck Misrata's airport.
The LIbya Observer sees Haftar's U-turn as attempting to build support for his Dignity Operation begun in May of 2014 after he has lost support from several groups in the east. It is not clear to me how his move will gain any support among the militia mentioned. What may be happening is that Martin Kobler, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) is cooking up some deal to bring Haftar on board with the GNA. In a recent tweet, Kobler says: " Martin Kobler: I'll be in tobruk tomorrow to encourage everyone to vote on the Govt of National Accord #GNA"
The HoR has had many meetings to vote confidence in the GNA but two meetings were disrupted and the others failed to reach a quorum, including meetings on the last two Mondays. If Kobler is going to Tobruk, he probably has assurances from Haftar about his security. He may also have assurances that the vote can go ahead without any disruption. Kobler may have worked out a deal with Haftar for a place in the new GNA forces that is acceptable to him. However, many members of the GNA want Haftar out of the picture completely. We will know soon what is happening.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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