Commander of eastern-based Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar threatens to attack Tripoli

(May 18)The international community applauded the move by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar to join the political process after he met with the head of the Presidential Council (PC), Faiez Serraj, of the UN-back Government of National Accord in Abu Dhabi recently.

In spite of the fact that an agreement was said to be reached, and was to be confirmed in talks last week, no agreement has been reached. Doubts were raised about the agreement. Some of Haftar's remarks to a crowd celebrating the third anniversary of Operation Dignity show that Haftar is determined to carry on with that military activity designed to rid Libya of Islamists whom he considers terrorists. Haftar includes among such groups militias supporting the GNA. To a considerable extent Haftar's Operation Dignity represented the start of a continuing conflict between many militia groups that continues to this day. Haftar's Operation Dignity or Karama started in May of 2014 by attacks upon rival Islamist militia groups in Benghazi. It also included attacking and burning the parliament buildings in Tripoli.
At the third anniversary celebration Haftar threatened to drive the forces some of which protect the GNA out of Tripoli: “We will not leave Tripoli, our capital, a safe haven for terrorists; our people will only be at rest when the capital returns to the homeland." This is entirely inconsistent with the pursuit of a political settlement based upon an amended Libyan Political Agreemetn( LPA). In fact it represents a military solution that supporters of the GNA and the UN envoy claim is impossible. They claim that everyone agrees that a solution must be based upon the LPA.
Haftar also criticized the international community for not lifting the ban on arms sales to his Libyan National Army even though the House of Representatives government (HoR) that appointed him is not the recognized government of Libya by the UN but rather the rival GNA. He also describes the LPA a conspiracy: “The army will not sell the blood of our martyrs, we will not submit to the international conspiracy, we will not be part of it.” Yet he is said to be negotiating an agreement on the basis of this conspiracy.
The above account is based on reports from the Libya Observer that is anti-Haftar and still refers to him as a "renegade general" but the Libya Herald, which is not in general anti-Haftar, also reports on the anniversary speech by Haftar. The report speaks of Haftar claiming that he would not leave Tripoli to the "rogue criminals and abusers" running rampant in the city a description that fits in with the Observer claim he threatened to drive them out and return the city to the "homeland". The Herald describes the celebration as a well-organized impressive display of parades, heavily armed vehicles and an air show. It involved 12,000 members of the LNA. Although PM of the HoR was present early in the celebration he was not present at the main event where Haftar made his speech. The UN special envoy Martin Kobler was not there nor were any foreign officials.
It should be clear that Haftar was more or less forced into his political activity and meetings with Faiez Serraj head of the Presidential Council of the rival GNA. He is using it as a means to build up his support. He no doubt knows that Serraj will never be able to convince most members of the PC and State High Council that he should remain head of the LIbyan Armed Forces or a member of the PC as his side has demanded. The failure of negotiations he hopes will gain support for his own solution and "fight against terrorism". A key part of the agreement with Serraj is a ceasefire but there are still clashes in the south between troops loyal to the rival governments.


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