Saturday, April 8, 2017

US general claims that Russia is forming bond with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar

Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of US forces in Africa claimed that there was an undeniable link between Russia and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army associated with the House of Representatives government.

Waldauser said this underscored US concerns about the increased Russian role in Libya. In earlier testimony to the Senate foreign relations committee Waldhauser maintained : “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya.”
Earlier in March, Reuters reported that Russia has deployed special forces to Sidi Barrani an air base in western Egypt about 60 miles or 100 kilometers from the Libyan border. Russia denied that report. However, when Waldhauser was asked about Russian troops in the area he claimed that there were Russians on the ground in the area and complained that Russia's attempts to influence Libya were concerning. Apparently the US is not concerned about its own presence in Libya which it is set to continue indefinitely as noted in a recent Digital Journal article. Several other countries such as France and the UK have or had special operations forces in Libya and Haftar has been aided by Egypt and the UAE in his campaign against Islamists in Libya, Operation Dignity.
Waldhauser said of the Russians: "They are on the ground, they are trying to influence the action, we watch what they do with great concern and you know in addition to the military side of this, we've seen some recent activity in business ventures...I think it is common knowledge, certainly in the open press, the Russians and their desire to influence the activities inside in Libya... the Russian and Haftar, I think that linkage is undeniable at this point in time."
The Libya Observer also reported that Waldhauser claimed there was an undeniable link between Russia and Field Marshal Haftar and also that there were Russians on the ground in the area, a devlopment that was of concern to the US. A tweet suggests that in response, the US was sending more troops to the city of Misrata: "#US to deploy more troops in #Misrata Air Force base after indications of #Russian presence in Eastern #Libya #Benghazi #Hafter". Russia has, without doubt, supported Haftar. Haftar has been to Moscow several times and met officials on a Russian aircraft carrier off Libya. However, Russia has also kept lines of communication open with the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli. The EU has expressed a desire for Russia to broker a deal between the GNA and Haftar to form a unity government. The US attitude to Russia, as expressed at least by the military, is at odds with the common view that Trump and the new US administration are favorable towards Putin and Russia. Given that Haftar boasts himself as a staunch opponent of Islamic terrorism, one might think that Trump might actually swing US policy towards the support of Haftar. Some in the UK urge UK support for Haftar. So far, the US position on Libya appears to be continued support for the UN-brokered Government of National Accord and concern about increasing Russian involvement in Libya. The US has said little of the long-standing and continuing evident support of Haftar by Egypt and the UAE among others.


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