(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
It is widely known and documented that General Khalifa Haftar has strong ties and relations with the CIA, but his exact relationship to the US in today’s Libya scene has been reported through many theories and facts; yet recent leaked tapes expose US and western military-backing of Haftar.
During the 2011 revolution which ended Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, Haftar returned to Libya after two decades of living in Virginia, only a few miles from the CIA headquarters, where he received training in warfare. What else was Haftar up to while in the US is unknown. The CIA for years has attempted to remove Gaddafi to no avail until the 2011 revolution presented an opportunity.
Haftar’s return to Libya has been marked by an attempted Sisi-like military coup that failed. He continues to reject the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), oppose the fight against ISIS in Sirte, and lead a battle in the east to preserve his waning power in the region.
Haftar’s opposition to step down and allow the GNA to unite factions across the country under one command structure has proven to be the largest challenge for Libya to move forward and establish stability and democracy. Libya specialist Mattia Toaldo, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains to the MEE that western support has only emboldened the renegade general to the detriment of attempts to unify the chaotic North African country.
The arms embargo imposed by the UN has reported shipments from foreign states to various factions including those loyal to Haftar.
Many reports have suggested that Haftar today is backed by the US. These recent air traffic recordings, exposed by the Middle East Eye, suggest Khalifa Haftar is backed by French, British and US forces.
The recordings take place with Haftar forces in the Benina air base, Haftar’s most important military facility. At least one air strike was heard being coordinated in the tapes, which total just under an hour in length, suggesting that US and other western forces are involved in actual military attacks.
This discovery of a multinational operation presents a problem for the US which has been sending conflicting messages in its support to the UN-backed GNA while also insisting that Haftar has a role to play.
Toaldo sums up the predicament this discovery creates for western countries intervening in Libya: “It will have to explain why it’s supporting the unity government with a lot of diplomatic effort, while its military forces are supporting the rival of that government.”