Thursday, February 19, 2015

General Khalifa Haftar -- Snapshots

The ISIS metastasis has been in progress for some time and the media seems to have noticed last week. Graeme Wood's piece in The Atlantic, yet another ISIS atrocity, headlines from Europe and a White House Summit indicate that violent extremism presents  more of an ideological than a geographic challenge.

Lybia's General Khalifa Haftar is emerging as a key figure in what is being described as a Libyan civil war. At seventy-plus years old and a former military commander under Qaddafi, he's not a newcomer.  But he's not widely known outside of Libya, Here is a collection of links about him.

Khalifa Belqasim Haftar is a Libyan general and the principal commander of one side in the ongoing Libyan Civil War of 2014. Transliterations of his name include Heftar, Hafter, Hifter,Hefter, etc. 
Haftar was born in eastern Libya. He served in the Libyan army under Muammar Gaddafi, and took part in the coup that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969. He became a prisoner of war in Chad in 1987. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in the United States, gaining US citizenship.  In 1993, while living in the United States, he was convicted in absentia of crimes against the Jamahiriya and sentenced to death.
Egypt, Libya, and ISIS
The release, on Sunday, of a video showing the beheading of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian workers is but the latest of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s documented horrors. In the video, the executioners make clear that the workers, who were kidnapped from Sirte, Libya, last year, were killed for purely sectarian reasons. Aping medieval jihadists, they vow to “conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” 
The atrocity provoked a swift reaction from Egypt’s military government, led by the former defense minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which yesterday carried out two waves of air strikes on the eastern Libyan city of Derna. Last autumn, ISIS proclaimed the birth of its Libyan affiliate in Derna and claimed eastern Libya for “the Caliphate.” Egypt was already supporting the controversial efforts of Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who last May launched a war against Islamist militias in Tripoli and Benghazi, and who has sworn to wipe out terrorism in Libya and “purify” the country.

Haftar’s actions led to the effective split of the country: his forces control most of eastern Libya, but, notably, neither Derna nor Benghazi, where heavy fighting continues; and a coalition of Islamists controls the central cities of Tripoli, Misrata, and Sirte. A tribal militia allied with Haftar controls parts of western and southern Libya, but large swaths of the southern desert are effectively out of control, with armed bands claiming affiliation with ISIS and a group called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb both operating there. While Haftar’s rivals include self-described Islamist moderates, he has insisted that they are all wolves in sheep’s clothing and that their opposition to him has helped reveal their true nature. (I wrote about Haftar in this week’s magazine.) [My emphasis, JB]
Haftar’s troops recapture key stronghold in Libya’s Benghazi
UN-brokered meetings between rival factions to take place “later this week” in Geneva

Members of the Libyan Special Forces look on
 in an army camp in the eastern Libyan city ofBenghazi
February 1, 2015. (Reuters/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libyan troops loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar recaptured a strategic army stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, according to military officials, as the battle for control of the city continues.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone, a senior army official said Libyan Special Forces, which are allied with Haftar’s Libyan National Army, had now retaken their base in the city, regarded as one of the most important army bases in the east of the country.

Asharq Al-Awsat has also obtained a video showing Wanees Boukhamada, the commander of the Libyan Special Forces, making a call to senior army members informing them that the Special Forces base in Benghazi had been recaptured from rebels.

Photographs obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat also show Boukhamada and Special Forces units stationed outside the base in Benghazi, which was captured by rebels belonging to the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries group after deadly battles with the army last July.

Haftar and the military units under his command are affiliated with the government based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, which is currently contesting for control of Libya with a rival parliament based in the capital, Tripoli.

Haftar’s troops have been battling jihadist groups and other rebels since the summer of 2014.

l'Espresso is an Italian weekly. Make of this what you will.
This is a Google translation, broken into more paragraphs than the original.

Libya, who is the General Khalifa Haftar The "new Gaddafi" friend of the CIA
For the dictator was a "son", but then became an enemy to kill. So the general ended two decades in Virginia, to cooperate with the American secret services. And now is the senior coup with which Egypt hopes to defeat the Isis

February 18, 2015

Khalifa HaftarSome call it "the new Gaddafi". For as the Colonel is a soldier who wants to Libya by force. And because the dictator was friend and faithful servant.But it is much more complex than the story of General Khalifa Haftar , the Libyan who is now in the front row with Egypt in the fight against the ' Isis and whose army controls much of eastern Libya.

"The Isis goes a duel, but not with the methods used in the Balkans or in Afghanistan that have proved unsuccessful. The planes are not enough: we need at least 50 thousand men on the ground". Talk Fabio Mini, former general of NATO.  The mustachioed general Khalifa Haftar , 72, the world began to take an interest really May 16 last year, when the "Operation Dignity" has tried a coup to solve the chaos in Libya, ending perhaps ingarbugliarlo [?] even more. Adventure ended without success, but which raised Haftar landmark of that whole world - secular, military, even nostalgic Colonel - who opposes the advancing forces of religious inspiration in the country, both those related to the movement of Muslim Brotherhood and those instead jihad, which today seems to add also the Isis of the "Caliph" al Baghdadi. 
That world anti-Islamic seemed so much defeated in recent months, especially after the arrival of the Isis, that ' Egypt has decided to intervene. Not only because the Islamic State had kidnapped and killed 21 Copts. But also - and perhaps especially - because the Egyptian president to Sisi wants to fight the same battle in Libya who is leading strongly at home, one against the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement of his predecessor Morsi of which were sentenced to death recently well 183 supporters.

And since the goal of the Sisi and Haftar coincides, here is that Elder Libyan general, who dreams of becoming the new Gaddafi despite not having the physique du rôle , again has a chance. But who, exactly, Khalifa Haftar?  Born in 1943 in eastern Libya, as the military took part in the coup that brought to power in 1969. Gaddafi's excellent relationship with the Colonel, who once said of him: "He was a son to me. And I was his spiritual father. " Gaddafi makes a career and gives him the keys of the war with Chad. But proves to be a disaster. Haftar was taken prisoner in Chad in 1987, and the relationship with Gaddafi turns into open enmity. In 1990 he was released under an agreement with the United States, and so it flies in America, where he took citizenship and remains nearly 20 years, while at home he is sentenced to death.

The United States led him in the suburbs of northern Virginia, near Washington, but especially near Langley and then to the headquarters of the CIA, with which it cooperates in all these years. In 2011 Haftar is back in Libya, to take part the anti-Gaddafi uprising. Back then in Virginia "to enjoy their grandchildren," but then he is again precisely at home in 2014, because her friends, she said, kept saying that they need a "savior." 
In the meantime, the Libyan parliament takes a kind of turnaround. The pro-Islamic forces are necessary and they want a new prime minister. For Haftar comes the hour of irrevocable decisions. February 14, appears in a television message stating unilaterally dissolved the parliament. But it is not able to impose itself by force, and in fact the Prime Minister Ali Zeidan calls "ridiculous," his attempt. 
In May tries again, this time with aircraft and tanks, and supported by Egypt's Al-Sisi: with '' Operation Dignity ", starting from Benghazi, wants to make a clean sweep of the Islamic militias, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The main result is to lead the country to new elections in June. They win the laity, but not in all of Libya has voted, the new Parliament is not recognized by the Islamists and chaos increases. While the militias of all kinds are at war with each other, comes the Isis, and Westerners flee. 
Now there are two parliaments, two governments, two capitals. Simplifying the one hand the pro-Islamic (Libya Dawn) and the other the pro-military, on the one hand, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic militias and other Haftar, the laity, the nostalgic Gaddafi. Each group defines "terrorist" the other. With the first are Turkey and Qatar, with the seconds Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.Libya Dawn controls Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte, while Haftar - who meanwhile has escaped an assassination attempt - earns the field to the east, but neither in Derna or Benghazi, where we fight, and meanwhile the South desert is out of control. 
Country map is variously colored, there is no longer a state, is a gang war. Electricity is scarce, as oil revenues. And almost a third of the population would be boundless in Tunisia. "More like a retired teacher that the tyrant supported by the Americans are talking about his enemies," writes the "New Yorker" in its latest issue in a long interview-profile Haftar in which a representative of the Obama administration takes significantly distanced from him ("The US government has nothing to do with the general. Haftar kills people. He says to target terrorists, but uses too broad a definition. It is a" Avenger ", and will only join his rivals'). 
The escalation Egyptian, however, could help Haftar - which is definitely not a democrat, but that is as far away from the positions jihadist - to stop the advance of the Isis. At the moment, however, his priorities seem to be the Muslim Brotherhood, in which there are so many moderates. Now, according to some rumors, it could also become the head of the regular army, but in reality from dreams of a future president, from new Gaddafi. For the moment, however, is primarily a reflection of an anti-Islamist disorganized and adventurer. Another face of the tragic chaos in Libya.
This is from Turkey...

Libya's Haftar 'ready' for deal with Islamist militias
Thursday, January 29, 2015

BENGHAZI – Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar has expressed readiness to sign a "conditional deal" with Islamist militias on which he unilaterally waged a campaign several months ago.

Haftar said during a Wednesday interview with BBC news channel that rebuilding the Libyan army was his pre-condition for a deal with militias.

"Our demand is to be able to defend ourselves," he said of the Libyan army. "Such armed groups who come from Asia and other regions must be resisted."

He also called on his rivals to "come to their senses and realize that the safety of the Libyan people is a must."

Haftar said that he was keen on not dragging the confrontation from the eastern region, mainly Benghazi, to capital Tripoli.

"We are trying as much as we can to avoid causing damage to Tripoli and surrounding areas," he said.

Libya has remained in a state of turmoil since the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011. Rival militias have frequently clashed in Libya's main cities, including capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

Political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government in the country, each of which has its own institutions.

Vying for legislative authority are the internationally-backed House of Representatives, which convenes in Tobruk, and the Islamist-led General National Congress, which – even though its mandate has ended – continues to convene in Tripoli.

The two assemblies support two different governments headquartered in the two respective cities as well as two military entities.

While the House has the support of much of the Libyan army and troops loyal to Haftar, the Congress is backed by Islamist militias which helped topple Gaddafi in 2011.

Haftar, an army commander who served under Gaddafi, launched a campaign against Islamist militias in Benghazi in the spring of last year.
Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency

1 comment:

  1. Many believe that the road to peace is paved with more military support. But this is an ill-advised response.

    Egypt, in response to the killing of its citizens in Libya, is calling for the UN to lift the arms embargo. This would allow someone like General Haftar to receive more and better weapons. It also wants the international community to back the Haftar militia and Tobruk parliament against Tripoli. Is that a good strategy?

    It would be a very dangerous gamble to loosen or lift the arms embargo in order to help the internationally recognised government in Tobruk against the Tripoli authorities. Libya doesn’t need any more weapons. What it does need today is political dialogue, and a push to create common ground between the various factions, both military and political. By requesting an end to the arms embargo, Egypt and those Libyan leaders who back such a request could actually deepen Libya’s woes.

    >> First of all, General Haftar and his allies might well use any new weapons to pursue fights with more rivals than just IS; they often identify their political opponents as terrorists. Secondly, General Haftar’s military group may be allied to the authorities in Tobruk, but it is actually a fragmented military force. Rivalries between commanders mean it is likely that they will disagree on what happens with any new weapons, and could use them against each other. We’ve also seen several instances of General Haftar’s allies’ weapon depots being stormed and captured by rivals, including by Islamist militants. So there is no certainty that these weapons, if delivered, would actually remain in the hands of the army that Egypt is asking to support. Finally the military forces on the ground, one allied with the Tobruk parliament and one allied with Tripoli, are fairly equally balanced. There is no assurance that delivering arms to one camp would ensure its victory over the other.

    So what is the alternative right now?

    The international community must unite to persuade Libyan factions to make a political deal. Only by bringing the main groups together can there be a unified fight against radical groups. Any attempt to push for a military solution, like providing weapons to the Tobruk authorities and their military allies, would actually undermine the UN, U.S. and European countries’ efforts to pressure the various groups to compromise.

    Egypt has intervened in Libya, not only against IS but also in favour of one camp. Are there other regional actors who see things differently, who support the Tripoli version of events rather than the Tobruk one?

    Yes, Egypt is not alone in supporting the Tobruk camp. They are joined by the United Arab Emirates and to a certain degree Saudi Arabia. Conversely, the Tripoli authorities in the other camp have international backers like Turkey and Qatar, and, to a certain degree, Sudan. But you also have neutral regional actors that are trying to find a midway in the current divide. This is a very healthy, responsible position to take, epitomised by countries like Algeria and Tunisia. <<