Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In Libya's south Libyan National Army officers unsuccessfully try to change their commander

Officers of the Libyan National Army(LNA) meeting near the southern city of Sebha named General Suliman Kanah, as southern commander. Commander-in-chief Marshal Khalifa Haftar was not consulted.

In spite of naming a new commander without the approval of Haftar the officers said that they were still under the control of the army according to the Libya Herald. They also agreed to set up a southern operations room. Army personnel were told to report to their units.
The officers also said that they saw their mission as staying out of "political polarization". Their key concern was to control and protect the south. This neutral position is counter to that of Haftar who does not recognize the GNA and regards militia groups supporting it as his enemies to be defeated. When the Libya Herald made his report Haftar had not reacted. The Herald notes that after Haftar replaced local commander Omar Tantoush a Warshefani with Emad Trabisi from Zintani, Tantoush's unit defected. Haftar is obviously facing disobedience in the south as well.
The Libya Observer also reports on the meeting but has a somewhat different description of what happened. The Observer describes the group as former Gadaffi army officers in south Libya. The Observer claims that they had decided to set up their own military command after years of fighting as part of Haftar's Operation Dignity:During a meeting in Qira town in Wadi Shati on Thursday, the officers selected General Ali Kannah as the commander of “Libyan Arab Armed Forces in South Libya,” and to be separate from Khalifa Haftar’s so called “General Command of Libyan Armed Forces” in Al-Marj.There does not seem to be any statement about being part of Haftar's Libyan National Army or the General Command of the Libyan Armed Forces. Kannah confirmed that the group would not act under a unified command until the Libyan state was built. The group is obviously not joining GNA forces under the command of the Presidential Council. He said his forces would not be involved in politics. The establishment of the group he said was an internal matter for the southern region.
Haftar did not wait very long to react to these actions. He reacted not with words but with action. A more recent report from the Herald claims:General Mohamed Ben Nail said that his troops had surrounded the rebel commanders and used mediators to persuade them to hand over their arms. According to LANA in Beida the rebels had then been allowed to go free. There was no mention of where this confrontation took place nor whether Kannah was among the disarmed commanders who were released.
General Nail blamed UN envoy, Martin Kobler, for the attempted rebellion claiming his aim was to divide the Libyan National Army. As a result of the rebellion, Nail said the LNA had reinforced its positions in the city of Sebha. It will be interesting to find out what happens to Kannah.
If the reports of the rebellion being quashed are true, the LNA may very well increase its hold on Sebha. Misrata's Third Force had been the dominant group in Sebha until July. They had been there since 2014. However, when the offensive began against Sirte the larger part of the militia withdrew from the Sebha region to help out. Haftar may be waiting until his command in the south and in the west is secure before he attempts any move on Tripoli as part of his Operation Dignity to liberate Libya from Islamists, at least any who oppose him. Before that happens, the GNA and Kobler hope that they can provide Haftar with some role in the GNA which will convince him to join the GNA and urge the HoR to vote confidence in it.


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