The prior blog provides background, and explains in part why Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would support General Hafter. I also mention that had traveled to Libya. I was there during a peaceful period, in mid 2013. I was staying very near Martyr’s square, and I saw the coffins set up on one side. Each has a picture of a person who died in the civil war. They were empty coffins, but this display spoke volumes. Liberty came at a steep price to Libya. I am very afraid of what was gained in the short 9 months of 2011, will be lost.
Haftar captured three key cities: Gharyon, Surman and Aziziya approximately 20 to 50 miles outside of Tripoli. He has stated that he intends to take the only functioning airport, Mitigi Airport, in Tripoli. He launch an air strike on Mitigi on April 4, 2019. He has taken control of the principal oil fields. He now has control of much of the country. See New York Times link. As I stated in the prior blog, he is funded by Saudi Arabia and other countries.
The UN condemned the airstrike as Mitigi airport is not a military base but a civilian airport. Haftar responded that the intended targets were Russian Mig fighter parked at the airport. For the immediate future, the war between Haftar and Tripoli will be waged in the air.
Tripoli is the big prize. But if Haftar sends his forces into Tripoli, it will be extremely bloody. The first civil war ended without serious fighting within the capital. Gadaffi was not allow to use his air force to defend his country, as a result of the UN Resolution 1973. This time is different. General Haftar is willing to reduce Tripoli to rubble so that he can rule Libya, which is the only option he has left now anyway, according to an expert on the Libyan conflict (see NYT article).
The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire. The US has done the same, but this doesn’t seem likely. The US has evacuated its embassy in Tripoli. United Nations canceled a long-planned peace conference scheduled for later this month.
Neither General Haftar nor the Tripoli government have a single united military. Both depend on small militia groups, which have banded together. The New York Times article points out that the militias attract “thugs and extremists” to defend Tripoli. According to the New York Times,
All four of the Tripoli militias have profited by extorting protection money from banks and government ministries, according to United Nations experts and an authoritative study by Wolfram Lacher of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
It doesn’t seem there is any outcome to this second civil war that leads to a stable government. What is amazing to me, is that the oil keeps flowing and being exported. Apparently, according to the New York Times, the Tripoli government is still in charge of the lifting of oil (actual pick up by tankers) at the port cities. But there are payments back to the Tobruk government. Tripoli is also continuing to pay the salaries of the military under Hafter’s command according to the NYT.
Once Haftar is in command of Tripoli, he will seek recognition from the other countries, as the legitimate government. This will be necessary to continue the contracts for oil exports.
The best sources of information are the New York Times and Al Jazeera. I note that the Times spells the General’s name as Kifter while Al Jazeera spells it as Kaftar. The same spelling differences frequently occur in the spelling of names of cities.
I fear a complete reversal of the Arab Spring in Libya. It is difficult to see any progress in democracy after the rebellion in Egypt, and I fear Libya is on course to reverse the gains made during Arab Spring. In my next blog, I will explore the background of General Kaftar, including his long stint working for the CIA and the fact that he is an American citizen. It will be interesting.
Al Jazeera: Saudi’s gave Libya Hafter military millions of dollars before the attack.