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article imageOp-Ed: US seeks a political deal in Libya with a large role for Haftar

By Ken Hanly     Apr 11, 2019 in Politics
Apparently the United States is pushing Haftar for a bigger role in official Libyan affairs but does not want him to continue his campaign attacking the Libyan capital Tripoli.
US wants political solution but with large role for Haftar
An anonymous former US official recently told Al Monitor: "The US doesn’t want Hifter to continue with this campaign. I think they’d like to see him in a powerful position within the security apparatus of a unified Libyan state, but they want him to be incorporated into the state via a political solution to the conflict.”
Haftar has always preferred a military solution and has threatened to "liberate" Tripoli several times and has often sabotaged UN peace efforts and refused to accept the 2015 Skhirat agreement or the authority of the Government of National Accord (GNA) recognized by the UN and most countries as the legitimate government of LIbya. However, recently Haftar and the GNA Prime Minister Serraj met and agreed that national elections are necessary.
Now that Haftar is attacking Tripoli Serraj, who has in the past not been critical of Haftar and tried often to negotiate with him, has finally spoken out against him. Several times Haftar has refused to meet with Serraj. A recent article notes that Sarraj, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord accused Haftar by name as violating political agreements concluded under the auspices of the United Nations saying: "We have stretched out the hand of peace, but the aggression of Haftar's forces and declaration of war against our cities and our capital, and therefore violation of political agreements by him, will only make us resolute and give us strength."
US still hoping for a political solution
A recent article claims: "Libyan National Army (LNA) head Khalifa Hafter, who is in the process of attacking the capital city of Tripoli for at least the third time since 2014, is reportedly being pushed by the US government for a bigger role in official Libyan affairs. This could include making him the head of the actual Libyan military, instead of just the one he pieced together himself."
There are many especially in western Libya who would never accept Haftar as head of the national army. It is unlikely that Haftar would accept the post either if he were under civilian rule unless he controlled the civilian government.
Haftar promotes himself as a military strongman to promote stability
Haftar has a long history in Libya being part of the 1969 Gadaffi coup. However he was captured in a disastrous campaign in Chad and ended up being saved by the CIA. While in the USA, he worked with rebel groups as he hated Gadaffi who had abandoned him and his men in the Chad war. He was part of a CIA-funded rebel force in the 1980s. Haftar is an American citizen.
Gadaffi was ousted in 2011. In 2014 Haftar attacked parliament and in effect launched a coup of his own. He began his Operation Dignity designed to rid Libya of those he called terrorists. In 2015 the eastern government of the House of Representatives appointed him as head of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) although it is not the army of the recognized Libyan government. Haftar got the new title of "field marshal". LNA forces have gradually expanded the territory controlled by Haftar and the eastern government. He has consolidated his power controlling many of the oil ports and fields. In spite of the fact that he would have considerable power under the political agreement with Serraj he has chosen his preferred military solution.
UN's planned conciliation talks sabotaged by Haftar
Haftar's attack on Tripoli sabotaged the planned UN conciliation talks. As he has done many times, Haftar has chosen a miitary solution while sabotaging a political one.. At one time, the EU even considered sanctioning him. As a 2015 July Reuters article notes: "Two military leaders in the east of Libya, who say their forces will not respect any peace accord, also face sanctions. They are General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the eastern forces and air force head Fakir Jarroushi." Of course nothing happened.
With Tripoli under attack no one wants to hold talks except perhaps on a ceasefire. However, the US sees the solution as promoting Haftar to be head of the national Libyan armed forces. They may think that Haftar will not attack Tripoli if he is part of the government that controls it. However, given Haftar's bold military move, the US has not represented itself as clearly aligned with Haftar and as with Russia also claims to support the GNA. Both countries have shown support for Haftar but France, outside of Egypt and the UAE, has been the most outspoken in support creating some conflict with Italy.
The result of Haftar's attack is not clear yet but he appears to be facing more resistance than he had counted on. If he is defeated it will be interesting to see what the reaction of his supporters, the US, Russia, France, Egypt, and the UAE will be. Libya could be in for an extended period of clashes, the last thing the country needs.
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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