Op-Ed: Commander Haftar demands Misrata militia withdraw from Tripoli

Posted Dec 21, 2019 by Ken Hanly
Khalifa Haftar who heads the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) has announced an ultimatum to the Misrata militia ordering them to leave Tripoli within three days.
Libyan fighters loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar have ground to a halt in their offen...
Libyan fighters loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar have ground to a halt in their offensive to seize the capital Tripoli
Abdullah DOMA, AFP
Misrata a key defense against Haftar's advance
Haftar is hoping to end the 8-month stalemate after he attacked the capital and area claiming to be liberating the capital from terrorists. However, Haftar tends to label anyone who opposes him a terrorist. The Misrata militia have been key allies defending the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) from Haftar's attack. The militia was also a key force in freeing Sirte from rule by the Islamic State. Haftar is also demanding now that the Misrata militia withdraw from Sirte within three days as well. The Misrata militia were also active in the rebellion against the former Gadaffi government.
A recent article reports: "Last week, LNA commander Khalifa Hafter declared the "zero hour" of the battle for Tripoli had begun, nearly eight months after he began his offensive to take the city. The announcement triggered a fresh bout of clashes around Tripoli. Friday's LNA statement warned that if the militias do not withdraw, their town Misrata will continue to be targeted "every day, non stop and in an unprecedentedly intensive way."
Haftar has considerable foreign support
Haftar is backed by key Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt both of whom may aid in air attacks on the GNA as part of Haftar's air power. Saudi Arabia also supports Haftar. In spite of nominal support for the UN-recognized GNA both Russia and France also support Haftar. Perhaps Egypt and the UAE will aid Haftar in attacking Misrata if the militia refuse to withdraw.
Foreign support for GNA is often nominal
While many countries support the GNA government and the UN resolution recognizing it as the legitimate government many have done little to help out the GNA in its battle with Libya unlike the UAE , Egypt, and Russia that have given significant support to Haftar's offensive.
The head of the GNA has requested help from several supporters: "GNA head Sarraj sent letters to the leaders of the United States, Britain, Italy, Algeria and Turkey Friday, urging them to "activate security cooperation deals", his office said in a statement."
The loss of the militia could sway the battle for Tripoli in the LNA’s favor, and the LNA’s international support, mostly from Egypt and the UAE, means they could try to launch airstrikes against Misrata if they don’t get their way.
Turkey claims it will provide military aid to the GNA
Turkey has offered military help to defend the GNA against Haftar and as a recent article reports the GNA has accepted the offer: "The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement on Thursday that its cabinet had "unanimously approved the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on security and military cooperation between the GNA and the Turkish government signed on November 27"."
The Turkish offer might help explain why Haftar is suddenly demanding that the Misrata militia withdraw from Tripoli and Sirte. If the Turks send significant military help then Haftar could end up being forced to retreat. However, if the Misrata militia withdraw the battle could easily trend in favor of Haftar. It is unlikely given the Misrata militia's dislike of Haftar that they will give in to his demands. The conflict could easily become much worse as there are more aerial attacks and ground activity as foreign actors become even more involved.