Can Libya’s new authority succeed in cutting Haftar’s foreign links? – Middle East Monitor22 Aprile 2021
Self-styled Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar is a serious hurdle facing the Government of National Unity (GNU). He could prove to be a more complex issue than initially expected, taking time and patience to resolve. It is misleading to assume that dealing with Haftar is an easy political-military issue. How he is handled could also define the relationship between any civilian government and the military establishment in the new Libya.
He has played a continuous role in the Libyan conflict since he first appeared on the scene in May 2014. Between 2015 and 2019, he rose to prominence thanks to, among other things, foreign support.
Countries like Egypt, Libya’s eastern neighbour, supported Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), believing that he could deliver security in the face of increased terror threats to Egypt. The security-focused Egyptian regime considered that Haftar could be trusted with border security to counter arms trafficking and the movement of suspected terrorists across the borders.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia offered help to the septuagenarian general as he represented an opportunity to access Libya for their long-term strategies. France helped Haftar, in part, to counter Russia and Turkey and access Libya’s vast oil resources, of which Haftar used to control a large portion.
For the general, being on the ground in Libya, and even nurturing the hope of ruling the country, is a long overdue and deserved ambition. Having spent the best part of his life in exile, after disputes with his former boss, the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar believes that he has the right to run Libya and enjoy some of its vast wealth.
Despite the losses and the defeat that he suffered last year while attempting to take Tripoli by force, Haftar is not yet out of the power game in the war-ravaged country. He is down, but not yet out.
Yet, not much can be achieved without him in terms of a ceasefire and a political agreement, but counting on him is also a problem since he is controlled by external powers that support him.
But after the GNU took over, all of this seems to be changing. So far, the relationship between Haftar and the GNU is one of waiting and hoping that some miracle would convince the general to play by the rules of the new game in town.
Right after the GNU was formed, and even before it won the parliamentary vote of confidence, a spokesperson for Haftar welcomed the new authority. But other than this general statement, Haftar has done little else to show his support, or indeed that he is willing to respect and play by the rules as agreed in the roadmap that produced the GNU itself.
Furthermore, the roadmap designates the three-member presidency council collectively as the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army. Article two of the document, known as Prerogatives of the Presidency Council, states that the council have the authority to appoint the general commander of the army and all of his top subordinates, including the chief of staff and top-ranking officers. In theory, this means that Haftar is now a subordinate to the presidency council, despite the new council never having appointed him, but instead already found him in the post.