Khalifa Haftar: The West's Power Broker in Libya

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Lieutenant General Khalifa Haftar, Libya. Courtesy: Esam Omran al Fetori

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 8 November 2014

On the 17 February 2011, the Arab Spring finally arrived in Libya after starting in neighbouring Tunisia and transiting through Algeria, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Yemen, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Bahrain. This revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, riots and civil wars were primarily fueled by the dissatisfaction and disaffection of the people with their respective governments and the subversive activities of Western regimes and their intelligence agencies. For Libya, the death and destruction of its CIA and MI6 inspired civil war finally culminated in a victory by the rebel forces on 23 October 2011, just eight months after the initial anti-government protests had began. The subsequent grandstanding by both Cameron and Sarkozy a little over a month earlier, who were clearly seen to be basking in the glory of having facilitated a regime change and extolling the virtues of a liberal democracy, failed to mention that over 30,000 Libyan's lost their lives in the conflict.

More recently, in a series of events that appear to mirror the steps taken by Egypt in its path from the military dictatorship of Mubarak to the military dictatorship of el-Sisi, Lieutenant General Khalifa Haftar, who fought for Gaddafi in his bloodless coup d'état of King Idris in 1969, has assumed the role for which he has been groomed by the CIA: to become the West's power broker in Libya.

As history records:

Haftar became one of Gaddafi's trusted Lieutenants in the 1960's, both literally and metaphorically, and following the proclamation of the Libyan Arab Republic in 1969 he quickly rose to become a senior officer. Noted for his military acumen at that time, Haftar went on to become Gaddafi's military Chief of Staff in 1986 and soon found himself on the front line commanding the Libyan forces in the Chadian–Libyan conflict. Less than one year later, following a crushing defeat and his subsequent capture by the Chadian military, Gaddafi disavowed his erstwhile Chief of Staff and initially abandoned him, plus 600 of his men, who were now languishing in prisoner of war camps in Chad. Later, Gaddafi called for their return but the US sought to intervene, transiting the soldiers first through Zaire and then Kenya where Haftar and 300 of them eventually found themselves on a CIA sponsored refugee programme to the US. Haftar and a number of his soldiers were subsequently trained by the CIA.

That Haftar deeply resented being abandoned by Gaddafi in the Chadian–Libyan conflict of 1987 is patently obvious as his involvement in the coup d'état attempt of Libya in 1996 clearly demonstrates. Of course the coup failed, but the CIA's investment in Haftar was not considered a waste of time and resources but more of a test of his ability, determination and resolve for a future opportunity when it arose.

Fast forward to February 2011.

That Gaddafi had long been a thorn in the side of the Western geo-political and economic Empire (WGEE), primarily represented by the US and the UK, was common knowledge. Libya was rich in oil and its socialist policies, although widely acknowledged as being hugely successful, did not accord with the capitalist ideals of the West. The Arab Spring did not so much as '"arrive'" in Libya, it was the culmination of a carefully planned and orchestrated campaign by both the CIA and MI6, who appeared on the ground as if by magic, to finally subvert the Gaddafi government and install their own Western centric puppets. Khalifa Haftar's arrival in Libya in March 2011 was simply a part of that plan.

Thus the NATO war machine was called into action and the Libyan rebels were gifted a victory that they would not have been able to achieve on their own.

This time the plan worked: a National Transitional Council (NTC) was formed on the 27 February 2011 to front the political end of the uprising who went on to assume both domestic political responsibility and represented Libya in its international relations, eventually becoming a transitional government in March 2012. However, by that time the economy had practically collapsed and public disquiet about its ability to transition the country into a democracy had already began to surface. When the NTC formally transferred power to the General National Congress (GNC) in August 2012, a body legitimised by popular vote, it was warmly welcomed. However, the GNC proved to be equally inept in transitioning the post civil war chaos in Libya into a nation state with an enduring democratic constitution. With the election of an Islamist President, Nouri Abusahmain, in July 2013, who went on to introduce Sharia law in December 2013, the unicarmeral legislature had not only failed in its primary mission of establishing a democratic state but had also lurched towards becoming a theocracy. Furthermore, in January 2014, the Islamist controlled GNC unilaterally extended their mandate without recourse to the electorate. In essence, the West's plan was beginning to unravel, and fast.

Enter Khalifa Haftar, the US's answer to the emergence of an Islamic theocracy in Libya and the WGEE's own man on the ground to protect and further their interests.

Haftar's push back against the Islamists began in February 2014 when he called for the dissolution of the GNC who had illegally seized power. For the next three months he dodged assassination attempts whilst engaging the radical pro-Islamic militias in minor skirmishes until launching an all-out assault, called Operation Dignity, on the 16 May 2014. The attack not only targeted the radical Islamists but also the Libyan parliament. Four days later, the GNC succumbed and announced a general election would be held in June for a new House of Representatives. The election returned a majority secularist government and the Islamists were out of power.

Haftar had successfully steered the country back to a Western centric model, with the help of airpower from the al-Sisi regime in Egypt and weapon supplies from the UAE.

Nonetheless, the rebel Islamic militias will not be going anywhere soon given that they are known to be funded and supported by Turkey, Qatar and various factions of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the West, via its proxies in the middle east, who will use them as a tool for whatever nefarious practices might arise. If there were no Islamists, no foes to fight, then the peace and stability would encourage the emergence of growth and development in the national economy and, most likely, a less benign view of Western influence in its affairs: a situation that is a complete anathema to Western interests.

Thus, social and political instability, regional insurrections, radicalised militias, attempted subversions of state power and even coup d'état's, coupled with the ensuing death and destruction that usually follow in their wake, are the tradecraft of the West. There is no better way to frustrate the development of any society than to perpetuate endless turmoil and then capitalise on the misery that ensues.

That Haftar is the power broker in the West's quest to maintain its geo-political and economic supremacy in Libya is patently obvious. More importantly, Haftar knows it, and he also knows that he is being played by the CIA to maintain the status quo for the benefit of the WGEE and their interests in the region. The question is: will he maintain a steady hand on the tiller as the ship of state continues to flounder in the doldrums, a situation created and exacerbated by the West who are keen to extract their pound of flesh in reparations for its military intervention, or will the Libyan people, the national interest or his own ego rise to the fore?

No doubt MI6 and the CIA have a Plan B and are working on a Plan C, just in case.

Politics and war are opposing sides of the same coin. Wherever one is, the other is never far behind.
Ann-Marie de Veer