UN envoy to Libya suggests the Libyan army could be decentralized.

In an interview in Cairo with the Associated Press (AP), Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Martin Kobler suggested a new reconstituted army of the Government of National Accord (GNA) could be decentralized.

Kobler sees a decentralized armed forces as a way of helping to prevent political gridlock that seems to be gripping the country now, as he is unable to convince the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) to vote confidence in the GNA and become its legislature. Kobler spoke to the AP after he had talks in Cairo with a number of Libyan officials aimed at finding a solution to the political impasse. Egypt is a strong supporter of Haftar. Haftar and his allies insist on his remaining commander-in-chief of any new Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar is now just commander-in-chief of the LNA associated with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives(HoR) government of PM Abdullah Al-Thinni.
Kobler has been discussing the formation of military councils from the three historic regions of Libya: the west (Tripolitania), the east (Cyrenaica) and the south (Fezzan). The leadership of the armed forces is a point of contention between the GNA and the HoR. Haftar has considerable support in the east, including support for his Operation Dignity, aimed at ridding Libya of Islamic extremists whom he regards as terrorists. Haftar appears to consider any group with Islamist tendencies who oppose him as terrorists. This would include groups such as the Misrata brigades who are leading the offensive against the Islamic State (IS) in Sirte.
Many in the west consider Haftar a war criminal and do not want him to have any position in new GNA armed forces. The Misrata brigades would be among those in strong opposition to Haftar.
Any regional decentralization would be complicated by the fact that there are groups in the east who support the GNA and in the west who support Haftar. The Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) headed by Ibrahim Jodhran support the GNA and are opposed to Haftar, while the Zintan brigades in the west are loyal to Haftar. The situation is complicated in the south as well where different areas are held by different groups.
The Kobler plan seems fraught with difficulties. What makes the situation even worse is that there is no sign that Haftar is interested in what Kobler is trying to do or would agree to a reduced role in the GNA as a commander of a region. As Kobler points out his requests for a meeting with Kobler have been denied.
In a rare admission of the problems he faces, Kobler said that although the GNA had international recognition and backing it lacked "national legitimacy." Until Kobler manages to get the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA, it is not clear how the GNA can serve as a credible interim government for up to two years while a new constitution is approved setting guidelines for parliamentary and presidential elections. It is not clear either how setting up regional military councils would help advance this process.
Chris Stephen tweeted recently: #Libya UN envoy army plan seems to mean single command Zintan-Misrata in Tripolitania and Benghazi Shura Council-army in Cyrenaica.
As I noted, earlier, any unified command even within the western or eastern areas is complicated by divisions within them. In the case of the Benghazi Shura Council, Haftar and the LNA are not about to share a command with them but intend to eliminate them, and the same appears to be the case with the Shura Council of Jihadists in Derna. It is not likely Haftar would agree to unite with the PFG either. The Zintan brigades and those of Misrata are also completely at odds, with Misrata supporting the GNA and opposing Haftar, while Zintan brigades are loyal to Haftar.
Kobler notes that the GNA army cannot be formed until the various militias disband and turn in their weapons. This should be done through negotiations he suggests, to avoid a possible civil war. However, there appears no movement towards reaching this goal and the GNA is dependent upon various militia groups for security. However, as clashes and protests have shown, the GNA often has little control over the actions of different militia groups. Kobler thinks that forming regional councils may encourage militias to disband. Given the divisions within the three areas, it is not clear why or how this would happen.
However, Kobler claims he is still in favor of a unified Libyan army structure. This was his aim prior to the offensive against Sirte but Haftar refused to join even though he himself claimed he was marching to liberate the city. Kobler claimed: "You can't have a united Libya with two or three armies." However, it is not clear how this view is consistent with having three military councils in three different regions. If Haftar were commander of the Cyrenaica region he might not accept a commander of all three regions chosen by the GNA. He appears to have no interest in Kobler's scheme in any event. He would probably agree with Kobler that you need one army for a united Libya — one army with Khalifa Haftar as commander-in-chief.


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