News / Middle East

Libya’s Future Hangs on Rogue General’s Moves

In this Saturday, May 17, 2014 photo, Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter addresses a press conference in Benghazi, Libya
In this Saturday, May 17, 2014 photo, Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter addresses a press conference in Benghazi, Libya
A rogue Libyan general who has pledged to rid the troubled North African state of Islamist militias claims his forces now control the majority of the eastern city of Benghazi following a weekend of fighting spilling into Monday leaving 15 dead and more than 40 wounded.

General Khalifa Hifter’s campaign to curb Islamist fighters, whom he says Libya’s weak federal government has failed to curtail, is welcomed by some Libyans frustrated by the chaotic drift of a country that has been wracked by lawlessness, bombings and abductions since the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi.

And the 71-year-old general, a former top military commander in the Gadhafi-era, says he has a popular mandate for his two-weeks old intervention, pointing to recent demonstrations in Benghazi, Tobruk and Libya’s capital Tripoli supporting his self-styled “Operation Dignity.”

But his forces, pieced together from various town-based militias and Libya’s official security forces, have not only focused on al-Qaida-sympathetic Islamist militias but also on the country’s legislature, the General National Congress, which the general accuses of being controlled by political Islamists.

He stormed the GNC last month, insisting on its suspension. That in turn prompted lawmakers to call early elections slated for June 25.

The standoff between the GNC and Haftar, who are backing rival prime ministers, is prompting the alarm of Western governments, who fear the country is on the brink of a full-fledged civil war.

France’s newly appointed Special Envoy to Libya, Denys Gauer said Paris is “worried about the complicated and potentially dangerous situation in Libya – for Libya and for its neighbors”.

And the U.S. State Department has urged Americans working or visiting Libya to leave. The Pentagon has moved the warship the USS Bataan with 1,000 Marines on board close to Libya in case an evacuation is needed.

How the standoff will play out remains hard to predict.

Coup attempts and armed interventions by various groups in ever shifting alliances in post-Gadhafi Libya in the past have failed to do more than add to anarchy before there is a return to an uneasy stalemate.

No one group of militias has been strong enough to assert unchallenged control.

But Haftar has managed so far to pull off a coalition aligning some eastern militias with some western ones, and that has proven elusive in the past, say Western diplomats.

Some Western analysts are sympathetic to Haftar’s taking on Islamist militias such as Ansar al-Sharia, one of the jihadist-inclined groups blamed for the 2012 razing of the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

But other analysts warn that the rule of the gun will only worsen lawlessness and instability in the country.

“The ultimate solution for Libya’s security woes resides in the political realm — specifically, the drafting of a constitution, reform of the congress, and a broad-based national reconciliation,” said Frederic Wehrey, a Mideast scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Haftar appeared in February on Libyan television to announce that Libya’s government had been suspended. His coup claim was pushed aside by then Prime Minister Ali Zeidan as “ridiculous”.

But over the winter the general set about developing alliances among militias fed up with an oil blockade mounted by eastern federalist groups.

Haftar commands respect among the former Gadhafi-era military. He was a field commander in Gadhafi’s failed expansionary war in Chad in the late 1980s.

Captured in Chad along with hundreds of other Libyans, Haftar was disavowed by Gadhafi, who had previously claimed there were no Libyan forces active in in Chad.

Local residents contacted by phone say that forces loyal to Haftar have slowly but surely been pushing out Islamist militiamen from central districts in Benghazi.
But they questioned the claim by Haftar aides that 80 percent of the city is now under their control.

“The Islamists arte concentrated now on the outskirts but at nightfall they start slipping back in,” says storeowner Mustafa, who asked for his family name to be withheld.

While battles still rage in the east of Libya, in Tripoli lawmakers are locked in dispute over who is the legitimate prime minister.

Three weeks ago the GNC voted in Islamist-backed businessman Ahmed Maiteeq as Libya’s third prime minister in two months. But the outgoing Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni refused to relinquish power, claiming irregularities in the appointment of his successor.

Maiteeq’s supporters say Al-Thinni is abusing his post by refusing to go.

The country’s Supreme Court is scheduled to adjudicate the dispute but in the meantime some lawmakers – about 40 – say GNC sessions should be suspended.

While the GNC is splintered the government’s budget is not being passed and public sector salaries will start going unpaid – as will the wages to the militiamen who make up most of the country’s current security forces.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs