Haftar takes his chances in Tripoli
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar does not care much for international mediators’ carefully laid plans for the future of Libya. The head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the control of the United Nations (Un)-backed government in April. UN and African mediators had got behind a plan to hold a national referendum and elections as soon as possible. Now that Haftar is on the march, the scheduled July African Union (AU) meeting on the Libya crisis takes on a new urgency as the threat of full-scale war rises. The proposed “National Reconciliation Conference” is certainly off the agenda, as the AU looks for a diplomatic response beyond chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat’s calls for external actors not to get involved in Libyan affairs. The UN’S response was much the same, which suggests that the forces will be left to fight it out. Analysts say that both sides have the resources to escalate the conflict.
While Haftar made rapid advances, the militias of the western city of Misrata arrived to help the Tripoli government of Fayez al-sarraj and stave off the rise of another Libyan strongman. Haftar, however, has stronger international backing – with Egypt, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates behind him. A report from the think tank International Crisis Group in April pointed to the rise of fundamentalist Islamic groups like the Madkhalis in Libya, and many of Haftar’s backers see his anti-islamism as a key bulwark for protecting the region from Islamist rebels.
Misrata forces, under the protection of Tripoli forces, patrol near Tripoli on 6 April