Saturday, June 10, 2017

Eastern commander Haftar may be planning to attack Tripoli

(May 29(Khalifa Haftar who heads forces of the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government the Libyan National Army (LNA) has called on militia loyal to him in the west to prepare to move on Tripoli and free it from Islamist militias who oppose him.

Haftar is opposed to the rival UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. Recent clashes in Tripoli have seen militias opposed to the GNA and loyal to the earlier Salvation Government have seen them retreat from Tripoli at least for now ostensibly becausethey wanted to avoid conflict. A more plausible explanation is that they were being defeated. The Libyan Express claims:
"Haftar said he and his forces in cooperation with his loyalists in the western region are going to defend Tripoli against the current chaos and killings created by what he said “Islam Political Parties” backed by many foreign countries including Qatar. “I call for the state of emergency and mobilisation of all troops to engage in a conflict that will end the presence of the militias that are endangering the lives of Libyans"”He urged coordination with the Presidential Council (PC) of the GNA.
The Libya Observer also reports on Haftar's sudden seeming support for the GNA. He called Tripoli armed brigades that he had formerly called his foes as "patriots" as they defended the PC and GNA. Haftar has always rejected the GNA. He applauds the mission of the militia to protect Tripoli from "political Islam groups" his foes. In a letter to his loyal brigades mostly from Zintan and Wirshiffana to "help the national forces which are securing the capital". Odd that he calls them national forces as if he recognized the GNA. Haftar's moves are quite transparent. He is wooing Tripoli militia in order to have them on his side as his forces and allies enter Tripoli. While the Observer claims that all Tripoli brigades have come out against Haftar and rejected his Operation Dignity the situation may be changing. The Islamists that left Tripoli were the most opposed to Haftar.
Egyptian fighter jets continued strikes on the city of Derna for the second time in three days apparently hitting civilians locations in a residential area. The engineers residential compound of the electricity company were hit as the Derna steam power plant and the distillation station. There was considerable material damage but apparently no one was killed. Derna had been attacked two days earlier by Egyptian planes. Egypt claimed that it attacked six sites where terrorists who launched the attack on a bus killing 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt had been trained. As I argue in a recent article in the Digital Journal it is quite unlikely that the perpetrators trained in Derna. The Islamic State has now claimed responsibility and they were driven out Derna ages ago. More likely Egypt simply made up its narrative to help out Haftar who is laying siege to the city. The recent attacks on two further sites in Libya in Hun and Al Jufra held by forces associated with the GNA further support the view that Egypt is simply helping Haftar who air force is limited.
Haftar may not yet try to occupy Tripoli. It remains to be seen whether his western allies are even willing to answer his call. However, it does look more and more as if there is going to be a military solution to the country's division, in which Haftar is able to convince some who now support the GNA and oppose him to decide to cooperate with him in a move that would see any anti-Haftar Islamists and others within the GNA who oppose him to be sidelined, if not eliminated. The GNA already appears to be yielding ground to Haftar. Just recently its forces abandoned Timnahent air base in the south headquarters of the Third Force and allowed Haftar forces to take it over without a fight. The GNA is growing weaker and weaker and seems to be helping Haftar. Something strange is going on.


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