Haftar Diverting Libyan Army’s Focus Away From ISIS

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

House of Representatives Chief of Staff Abdul Razak Al-Nazhuri

General Khalifa Haftar’s militia, which he self-proclaimed the “Libyan National Army,” warned that it is only 10 kilometres away from Tripoli and will be liberating the capital soon, in what appears to be an attempt to distract the Libyan armed forces from the war against ISIS.

The warning came from Chief of Staff Abdul Razak Al-Nazhuri of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) after he visited the western cities of Zintan and Wershefana on Tuesday.

“Our fighters are just some few kilometers away from Tripoli,” said Al-Nazhuri.

Al-Nazhuri said that his visits to Zintan and Wershefana is a message to the unity government, which he called a “trusteeship government.”

The Zintan brigades, who detained Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi in 2011 and launched an attack on Tripoli International Airport in July 2014, are loyal to the HoR and its militia led by Haftar

After ISIS forces overran the Abu Grein checkpoint on May 5, Haftar has repeatedly claimed that his forces were preparing to launch an offensive against the extremist group’s stronghold in Sirte. However, his militia has instead waged Operation Volcano against the Derna Shura Council, who have been instrumental in driving out ISIS fighters from the coastal city.

The UN-backed Government of National (GNA), on the other hand, has launched Operation Strong Foundation against ISIS forces in the area between Misrata and Sirte, and last week the Libyan Army made significant gains against the extremist group after recapturing the Abu Grein checkpoint.

Haftar has repeatedly expressed his contempt for the Libyan Dialogue, the United Nations, and the unity government, and this latest “threat” to liberate Tripoli appears to be another attempt by Haftar and his supporters to distract the GNA from the important war against ISIS.

Haftar has presented himself to be the biggest barrier to a united Libya, and instead of heeding Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s call to halt any separate offensives against ISIS and unify under a central military command structure, he has stalled Libya’s national resolve for his own personal gains.

On Friday, in an interview with French news channel iTele, Haftar said it was “unthinkable” for eastern Libyan forces to join the GNA until its armed wing has been disbanded, and also said that ISIS did not have the capacity of fight against his militia, but that his operation against the extremist group could take time.

Haftar has delayed his operation against ISIS to focus instead on exterminating the “Islamist threat” in Derna, and now is trying to divert the Libyan army’s focus away from battling ISIS in Sirte.

Since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, ISIS militants have taken advantage of the ongoing conflict in Libya to build their largest base outside of Syria and Iraq in Sirte, and the terrorist group is banking on Libya to be politically divided in order to maintain their influence in the country.

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