Photo credit Pixabay.com and wikimedia.org

Libya has been facing turmoil since 2011. As a result of Arab spring the then President Gaddafi was toppled by the rebels with the support of NATO air strikes. However, political conditions in Libya remained tense.  The UN supported a GNA government in Libya however the strong man Gen Haftar is against this government. Libya’s Haftar alleges that this government is backed by Al Qaeda fighters. He (Haftar) states that the current Libyan government backs extremists. This article will cover the rise of Gen Haftar and the future of this ongoing conflict.

Currently, Haftar’s army rules almost two third of the Libyan territory. His army has bases and strong presence in these areas. Gen Haftar has successfully occupied Libyan territories. With the foreign backing, Libya’s Haftar is gaining grounds in east and south Libya. And now he is trying to take the capital Tripoli. He wants all of Libya under his control like Gaddafi. Libya is facing a threat of another civil war.

UAE, USA KSA, and Egypt are believed to be the supporters of Haftar – Photo via pixabay.com

Libya’s Haftar is a former Army General under President Gaddafi. He served in Libyan army from 1961 to 1987. After his differences with President Gaddafi, he was exiled in the USA for almost two decades. He returned to Libya in 2011. After returning he joined the armed struggle against President Gaddafi. He became a key commander of the makeshift rebel forces. After a few years, He became an important player in Libya’s Civil war. He amassed the various militias and launched operation dignity.

The main purpose of operation dignity was to dismantle Al Qaeda from Benghazi and eastern Libya. But this struggle has eventually turned to a force trying to occupy the capital Tripoli. Hafter made an alliance with the Tobruk government and became the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA). LNA contains groups of military units and various militias. His military has successfully gained many areas of Libya. With the support of allies, He ordered his LNA to march towards Tripoli in April 2019. He clearly stated his ambitions to oust the UN-backed government of GNA from Tripoli.

Haftar’s move came after many years of failed dialogues between Haftar and the government. The war for Tripoli started and continues. However, till now Haftar’s army could not make significant progress in Tripoli. However, this Tripoli fight resulted in Killings of more than 400 people. More than 50000 have been displaced and about 2000 are injured.

Now we will discuss who is supporting Libya’s Haftar and why. The first credit is given to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). UAE has been providing military and financial aid to Haftar for years. UAE is accused of violating the international arms embargo on Libya. Back in 2014 UAE’s planes conducted air strikes in Benghazi from an Egyptian airbase. In 2016 UAE constructed a military base in Al Khadim in eastern Libya to support Haftar’s Operation dignity. Haftar’s army also received aircraft and military vehicles from the UAE. A report in the Wall Street Journal claims that UAE officials participated in secret talks with Gen Haftar in 2018 to export Libyan oil via channels other than UN approved exporters.

Saudi Arabia is also backing Gen Haftar. Gen Haftar visited Saudi Arabia before launching an offensive on Tripoli. He met King Salman and crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman. He also held meetings with Kingdom’s foreign ministers and intelligence chief. WSJ claims that Saudi Arabia assured its support for Haftar in Tripoli offensive. The sources of WSJ claimed that Saudi money will be used to gather the support of tribal leaders. The fighters of LNA will also be paid with this Saudi aid.

Egypt is also on the list. Egypt enjoys close ties with Haftar. During the Tripoli offensive, General Haftar visited Egypt. He managed to get President Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s blessing. A statement from Egypt’s presidential office confirmed the Egyptian support for Haftar. Previously Egypt has provided military support to Haftar in 2014.

European giant France is also backing Haftar. Although France publicly backs UN-backed GNA it has also provided financial, military and intelligence support to Haftar. The double game of France sparked conflicts in other European countries. Italy fears the migrant influx if the fight continues. Italy accuses France of jeopardizing Libya’s security for economic interests. France has blocked a UN resolution condemning Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli. France has a strategic partnership with Haftar. France is dependent on Haftar’s control regions for oil imports. However, Libyans are not happy with the French intervention. French oil giant Total has access to Haftar controlled oil reserves in Southern and Eastern Libya. In 2018 Total purchased 16 percent stake in Waha Oil Company. Waha is Libya’s state-owned oil enterprise. Recently Tunisia arrested a group of  13 French nationals. They were trying to cross the border. France claimed that they were on a diplomatic mission. However, media sources claim that they are intelligence officers. They were on a mission to provide logistic support to GNA.

Libyans protesting against french involvement. Photo via trtworld.com

The united states of America are also believed to support Khalifa Haftar. The USA publicly supports the UN-backed Government of GNA. However, US president Donald Trump contradicts his country’s foreign policy. On many occasions, Trump praised Haftar in his fight to “eradicate terrorism” from Libyan soil. According to Bloomberg Trump supported Haftar on Tripoli offensive. Trump pledges his support for Haftar after his conversation with allies, including the UAE and Egypt.

Photo credit trtworld.com and bloomberg.com

After acquiring foreign backing Haftar appears as a strong man in Libya. However, his LNA is facing fierce resistance in Tripoli and He is still unable to capture Tripoli. Unfortunately, the regional countries are silent on this issue and no country seems to be interested in arranging negotiations between the parties.