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Libyan army commanders gather in Marj for talks with Haftar

Commanders and Haftar are discussing events in Libya since the arrival of the UN-brokered Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA). Seven of the nine Council members are headquartered at a naval base adjacent to Tripoli. Those at the meeting included Colonel Idris Madi who heads the LNA western Operations Room. Brigadier-General Abdussalam Al-Hassi briefed Madi about events in Benghazi who heads local operations there.

While no statement is expected from the meeting, army sources told the Libya Herald that the aim was to rally the armed forces behind the president of the House of Representatives (HoR), Ageela Saleh. Saleh is sanctioned by the EU. The group does not want any of its forces working with PM Serraj and the GNA until there is formal approval of the GNA by a vote in the HoR. The GNA and the international community have declared itself in power despite no formal vote.The GNA claims a letter from an alleged majority of the HoR approving the GNA and the support of the Libya Dialogue and the international community is enough for the GNA to be operational. This LNA support for the HoR’s position that there needs to be a formal vote of confidence no doubt helped Kobler decide that maybe there does need to be a formal vote as his recent statements suddenly claim. At the meeting, apparently, were members of the Zintani military leaders opposed to the GNA who are alleged to claim that the GNA is controlled by Misrata and the Muslim Brotherhood. While there are members of both in the GNA, it is hard to explain why the GNA has not taken over as commander in chief as required by the LPA in section 8, if they control the GNA.

A top Haftar commander said: “We have the parliament [the HoR] and they are responsible for the politics. We are not interested in politics. We only care about fighting Daesh in Sirte and different places”. Haftar’s forces are fighting opponents of Daesh in Derna apparently. The commander said that the LNA would “clear out” not only Sirte, but Misrata and Tripoli after Benghazi was liberated. The aim is completely counter to that of the GNA. It is the aim of Haftar’s Operation Dignity to clear out all Islamists from Libya including those supporting the rival GNC. When the commander was asked how the LNA could enter Tripoli he said “we have army contacts, but not militias. They will appear at the right time.” The Herald claims that Haftar is known to oppose the GNA but he has not so far made any public announcement on the issue. His motto appears to be to stay silent and carry a big stick.

Haftar has been talking with the most important players: Yesterday, however, he and two of his main commanders, Major General Saqr Geroushi and Colonel Wanis Bukhamada held talks in Marj with HoR President Ageela Saleh. While in the town, Saleh also met with Hafter’s political ally, boycotting Presidency Council member Ali Gatrani, as well as Cyrenaican tribal leaders, mayors and members of the HoR, and together insisted there would be no dealings with the Presidency Council and the GNA until it was approved by the HoR.
This was followed by a meeting of members of the HoR and important officials who said that the GNA was not legitimate until formally approved by the HoR and if its demand were not met, including keeping Haftar as commander in chief, Cyrenaica could separate. There has also been a demand that the Presidency Council go to Tobruk and present the new government to the HoR. According to the Herald there are reports this is to happen. When it does the meeting will be crucial to what happens next in Libya.

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