Haf­tar takes his chances in Tripoli

The Africa Report - - QUARTER -

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

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