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Op-Ed: Libyan commander Haftar wages successful military campaign

Writing in the Libya Observer, freelance journalist Abdelkader Assad claims that the forces of Haftar’s Operation Dignity are close to their dream of entering Tripoli after he gained ground in Al Jufra capturing the towns of Hun, Waddan, and the Al Jufra air base. Earlier he had taken the Timnahent air base without a fight as the Third Force and Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) abandoned it. After failing in a coup attempt, Haftar launched his Operation Dignity way back in May 2014: In February 2014, Haftar appeared in a televised announcement to reveal that the General National Congress (GNC), which had recently unilaterally extended its mandate, had been dissolved. Haftar called for a caretaker government to oversee new elections. His announcement was soon dismissed with great skepticism by the then acting Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. Haftar’s actions were condemned as a “coup attempt” and “ridiculous”.[27][28]] Three months later on 16 May in Operation Dignity, Haftar began a combined air and ground assault against the pro-Islamic militias of Benghazi, as well as a sustained heavy weapons attack against the Libyan parliament.[2 Operation Dignity is still ongoing and to a considerable extent is the source of the present conflict with the GNA.

Haftar”s advances have been helped by bombing by foreign aircraft probably Egyptian. The Egyptians bombed the eastern city of Derna held by Islamists who had driven the Islamic State out of the city using the excuse that camps in Derna had been used to train fighters who attacked Coptic Christians in Egypt. Haftar has several times threatened to drive his militia enemies from Tripoli. Assad thinks that Haftar will use his bases in Al Jufra to “takeoff to Tripoli and western Libya” It is more likely that Haftar will move to other places such as Bani Walid first as Assad himself mentions. He would then continue to Misrata before entering Tripoli. He may be waiting to see if there will be a political process which would go as he wants. So far there has been plenty of talk and meetings but no announcement of when and where there will be a dialogue to amend the present Libya Political Agreement (ILPA) or if and when the HoR will meet to vote confidence in the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA). The HoR last rejected the GNA on August 22nd 2016 and there has been little evident progress towards a solution since then, in spite of a highly hyped meeting in early May between the head of the GNA presidential council (PC) Fiez SerrAJ and the eastern commander Khallfa Haftar. There were all sorts of rumored agreements but not a single actual agreement was signed. So-called agreements were mostly propaganda and bargaining positions of Haftar.

Leaders of the Misrata city military council, Battalion No.40 of the Bunayn Marsous Operations Room(BAM), have ordered the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) to surrender their weapons and their leader Mustafa al-Sharksi. If they refuse the Misratans said they would use force. BAM supervised the offensive which took the city of Sirte from the Islamic State(IS) The militant anti-Haftar BDB fighters are at the Baghla junction on the road south of Misrata to Abu Grain. This development further weakens the anti-Haftar forces. Haftar would no doubt be quite happy to see Misratan forces battling with the BDB instead of his own forces doing so.

In the east, the Ajdabiya anti-terrorism authority of the LNA said that it had seized a BDB camp near Sukna taking a number of the group prisoners, and seizing 12 tanks, several armoured vehicles and a stash of ammunition. In preparation for political negotiations, the GNA has an odd strategy. It is making itself weaker and helping Haftar grow stronger. Is there some group within the PC trying to throw those opposed to Haftar under the bus?

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