Friday, June 16, 2017

Khalifa Haftar, eastern commander, captures Al Jufra desert area from unity government

Eastern commander's forces capture the Jufra area including a key airbase as opposing factions including those associated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) withdrew.

This development leaves the eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and forces loyal to his Libyan National Army in control of the south central desert area of Al-Jufra and also the Sebha region according to Reuters. Haftar does not recognize the GNA and many militia who support it he regards as his enemies, although he has recently praised some Tripoli militias who drove out some of Haftar's strongest opponents from Tripoli. He may be attempting to divide militias supporting the GNA. Reuters suggests that taking Sebha and Al Jufra areas may be a key step in the LNA's stated goal of moving to Tripoli. Haftar may have his sights on other towns such as Bani Walid and the city of Misrata before attempting to take Tripoli. An LNA spokesperson has said that LNA forces will gradually move towards Bani Walid that is almost 350 km (215 miles) northwest of the Jufra area. The Jufra area is about 500 kilometers (300 miles) southwest of Benghazi and around the same distance southeast from the capital in the west of Tripoli. As all this is going on, Martin Kobler the UN envoy to Libya, and others are still talking about a political solution and Kobler promises a dialogue soon. By the time the dialogue actually gets underway, Haftar may be close to achieving a military solution so the GNA will be forced to surrender to his demands. About a month ago, Haftar met with Faiez Serraj of the GNA and the two agreed to calm tensions and raised hopes for a political deal. There was no common statement or any actual deals signed. Since than Haftar has continued to try to carry out a military solution.
For the second time opponents of the LNA have simply retreated without a fight. Mohamed al-Afirs, an LNA spokesperson said that they found the Al Jufra base deserted when they entered. The Benghazi Defense Brigades have apparently withdrawn towards the city of Misrata. The base was captured after heavy air strikes. Egypt has been helping Haftar both in the eastern city of Derna occupied by Islamist opponents and in the Jufra region.
Fouad Rashid an official in the area said: "Dignity Operation forces entered Jufra airbase without armed clashes." Sources in another town Hun claimed that Haftar-loyal forces had the town under control with a number of military vehicles seen on the town roads and at entrances. The LNA has also seized the town of Waddan but after clashes with BDB fighters causing several deaths. Prior to the LNA obtaining control there had been 18 air raids on both civilian and miitary locations in the Al Jufra area.
A spokesperson for the LNA Ahmed al-Mismari claimed that the army leadership had no politiical ambitions but were simply aiming to uproot terrorism in the region. Haftar always uses fighting terrorism as his rationale for gaining ground but is in effect gaining leverage for a political negotiation should there ever actually be one. Mismari also confirmed that LNA forces would move towards Bani Walid and then westward. He confirmed that Egyptian air attacks on Derna had been coordinated with the army. Earlier the LNA had said it would lift the siege of Derna for Ramadan. The GNA earlier withdrew its forces from the headquarters of the Third Force the Tamenhint Air Base. Why would the GNA help the LNA and weaken its own position prior to political negotiations?


No comments: