The rebranding of CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar in Libya
The internationally recognized Libyan government of prime minister Abdullah al Thinni has now reconciled with CIA-linked former general Khalifa Haftar.
With the blessing of the government Haftar has been carrying out a number of bombings in Tripoli, Benghazi, and elsewhere. Now the House of Representatives(HoR) in Tobruk according to a report in the Libya Herald is about to appoint Haftar as Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan army. Within the next few days a formal decision will be announced. Even within the anti-Islamist dominated HoR however there is opposition with 30 members expressing reservations about Haftar's recent reinstatement into the Libyan army and even questioning the legality of his Operation Dignity attacks against extremists in the east of Libya. The Libya Herald reports:
A group of 30 members of the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR) have signed a petition saying that they do not support the efforts to fight terrorism in eastern Libya by retired General Khalifa Hafter’s Operation Dignity .This shows that opposition to Haftar exists not only within the more-Islamist oriented government in Tripoli but also within the pro-Haftar government as well.
|Prime Minister Al-Thinni with John Kerry|
The prime minister of the Tobruk government Abdullah al-Thinni was not always favorable towards Haftar. He was defense minister during Haftar's first coup attempt on Feb. 14 this year. Haftar went on TV and announced he had suspended the Gneral National Congress(GNC), the government and the Constitutional Declaration. Al-Thinni was hardly supportive then:
Libyan Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni, responding to the declaration, claimed that Haftar's claim to forces loyal to him being in Tripoli was a lie, and also alleged that Haftar had no legitimacy. Thinni also reiterated that there was a warrant out for Haftar's arrest on the grounds of plotting a coup d'état.
Al-Thinni was prime minister when Haftar started Operation Dignity on May 16 with attacks on Islamist bases in Benghazi but then two days later moved to Tripoli with the burning and sacking of the parliament. After the start of Operation Dignity, al-Thinni declared Haftar's operation illegal:
At a government press conference held as a response to the Benghazi assault, acting Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni condemned the move by Haftar as illegal and claimed that the move undermined attempts to confront terrorism.At the time, Major General Al-Obaidi also condemned Haftar's operation and said that his militia were intruders into Benghazi and should be resisted by revolutionaries.
Now Al-Thinni presides over the Tobruk government that has welcomed Haftar back into the fold and given him the green light to "liberate" Benghazi and Tripoli. While he has retaken some parts of Benghazi at considerable cost he has achieved nothing on the ground in Tripoli except some damage to an airport and homes.
The choice of Haftar to command the Libyan army was suggested in an August article in Washington Institute publication by Barak Barfi a research fellow at the New America Foundation where he specializes in Arab and Islamist affairs:
"Washington and its partners should persuade the new Libyan government to appoint Haftar as chief of staff. Respected by his troops, he has the military skills and combat experience necessary to create a modern army. But most important, he is the sole Libyan willing to take on the Islamist militias that are preventing the establishment of a modern state"
The UN is trying its best to bring together the parties in conflict. However, the Tobruk government continues to support Haftar and his bombing in spite of UN condemnation and requests that they stop so that dialogue can take place. While the Libyan Supreme Court ruled back on November 6 that the June elections were unconstitutional and the Tobruk government should be dissolved, the international community shows no sign of making any move to question the legitimacy of the Al-Thinni government or take any significant actions to stop Haftar's attacks.
A recent meeting in Khartoum even re-affirmed the legitimacy of the al-Thinni government without even mentioning the Libyan Court decision. Since the UN said it was studying the decision more than a month ago now, it has not mentioned the decision either. The Tobruk government rejected the decision out of hand noting that the court was surrounded by armed forces and guards. The court no doubt needed protection just as parliament needed it earlier when it could have been saved by burning and ransacking by the Zintan brigades, allies of Haftar. Al-Thinni was quite pleased however when the same court rejected the Islamist choice for prime minister Ahmed-Maiteeq. Maiteeq accepted that ruling which left Al-Thinni as prime minister!