Khalifa Haftar

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Khalifa Haftar
General Haftar.jpg
Birth name Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Born c. 1943
Ajdabiya, Libya
Allegiance  Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
(until 1987)
 Libya (2011–2014)
Service/branch Libyan Ground Forces
Rank General
Battles/wars Yom Kippur War (1973)
Chadian–Libyan conflict (1978–1987)
Libyan Civil War
Battle of Ajdabiya
Third Battle of Brega
Operation Dignity

Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (Arabic: خليفة بالقاسم حفتر‎; born c. 1943) is a Libyan general and the principal commander of one side in the ongoing Libyan Civil War of 2014. On March 2, 2015, he was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the elected, internationally backed government, the Council of Deputies.[1] Transliterations of his name include Heftar, Hafter, Hifter, Hefter, etc.

Haftar was born in eastern Libya. He served in the Libyan army under Muammar Gaddafi, and took part in the coup that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969. He commanded the Libyan contingent against Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.[2] In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in the United States, gaining U.S. citizenship.[3] In 1993, while living in the United States, he was convicted in absentia of crimes against the Jamahiriya and sentenced to death.

Haftar held a senior position in the forces which overthrew Gaddafi in the 2011 Libyan Civil War. In 2014 he was commander of the Libyan Army when the General National Congress (GNC) refused to give up power in accordance with its term of office. Haftar launched a campaign against the GNC and its Islamic fundamentalist allies. His campaign allowed elections to take place to replace the GNC, but then developed into a civil war.

Haftar has been described as having fought "with and against nearly every significant faction" in Libya's conflicts, and as having a "reputation for unrivalled military experience".[4]

Early life[edit]

Haftar was born in Ajdabiya around 1943,[5] and is a member of the al-Farjani tribe.[6] He graduated from the Benghazi Military Academy and then went on to receive military training in the Soviet Union and Egypt.[7][2]

Early years in the Gaddafi government[edit]

As a young army officer, Haftar took part in the coup that brought Muammar Gaddafi to power in 1969, assisting Gaddafi in the overthrow of Libya's King Idris. Shortly thereafter, Haftar became a top military officer for Gadhafi.[8] He commanded Libyan troops supporting Egyptian troops entering Israeli-occupied Sinai in 1973.[2]

Like other members of the Free Unionist Officers (the junta that toppled the monarchy), Haftar was a secularist and a Nasserist.[7][9] He was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council which governed Libya in the immediate aftermath of the coup.[7] Haftar later became Gaddafi's military chief of staff.[10] In the late 1980s, Haftar commanded Libyan forces during the Chadian–Libyan conflict, which ended in defeat for Libya.[11]

War with Chad[edit]

In 1986, he had attained the rank of colonel, and was then the chief officer in command of Gaddafi's military forces in Chad in the Chadian–Libyan conflict. During the war, in which the Libyan forces were either captured or driven back across the border, Haftar and 600-700 of his men were captured as prisoners of war, and incarcerated in 1987 after their defeat in the Ouadi Doum air raid.[12] Shortly after this disastrous battle, Gaddafi disavowed Haftar and the other Libyan prisoners of war captured by Chad. One possible contributing factor to Gaddafi's repudiation of Haftar and of other captured prisoners of war may have been the fact that Gaddafi had earlier signed an agreement to withdraw all Libyan forces from Chad, and Haftar's operations inside of Chad had been in violation of this agreement.[13][14] Another possible reason given for Gaddafi's abandonment of Haftar was the potential that Haftar might return to Libya as a hero and thus pose a threat to Gaddafi's rule itself.[7] In any event, Gaddafi's repudiation clearly served to embitter Haftar towards Gaddafi.

In 1986 and 1987 the Government of Chad accused Libya of using toxic gas and napalm against central government forces and against rebel forces. Libya may have used mustard gas delivered in bombs by AN-26 aircraft in final phases of the war against Chad in September 1987. The wind blew the agent back onto the Libyan forces.[15]

Escape to the United States[edit]

Gaddafi demanded Haftar’s soldiers be returned to Libya, but the Americans arranged for them to fly to Zaire instead. There half his soldiers decided to return to Libya. By 1988, Haftar had aligned himself with the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a U.S. supported opposition group.[4] When U.S. financial aid to Zaire was not forthcoming, Zaire expelled the remainer to Kenya.[14] Kenya only provided temporary residence, and the American CIA negotiated a settlement around 1990, enabling Heftar and 300 of his soldiers to move to the United States under the U.S. refugee programme.[8][14]

Haftar moved to suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C., living in Falls Church until 2007 and then in Vienna,[16] where he was ostensibly trained by the CIA in Langley.[14]

In March 1996, Haftar took part in a failed uprising against Gaddafi in the mountains of eastern Libya, before returning to the U.S.[14]

Role in the Libyan Civil War[edit]

In 2011, he returned to Libya to support the Libyan Civil War. In March, a military spokesperson announced that Haftar had been appointed commander of the military, but the National Transitional Council denied this.[17] By April, Abdul Fatah Younis held the role of commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Omar El-Hariri serving as Younis' Chief of Staff and Haftar took the third most senior position as the commander of ground forces with the rank of lieutenant general.[18][19] Younis was assassinated later that summer.[20]

Haftar did not find a settled position in Libya’s new political structures, and returned to the U.S. for a while.[4]

Operation Dignity[edit]

Main article: Operation Dignity

In February 2014 Haftar appeared in a televised announcement to announce that the controversial Islamist-dominated General National Congress (GNC), which had recently unilaterally extended its mandate, had been dissolved. Haftar called for a caretaker government to oversee new elections. His announcement was soon dismissed with great skepticism by the then acting Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. Haftar's actions were condemned as a "coup attempt" and "ridiculous".[21][22]

Haftar's strategy was to embark on a series of “town hall” meetings around Libya, and with the support of fellow ex-officers from the military to secretly build an army.[4] Three months later on 16 May in Operation Dignity, Haftar began a combined air and ground assault against the pro-Islamic militias of Benghazi, as well as a sustained heavy weapons attack against the Libyan parliament.[23] At the time of the Benghazi assault Haftar, who had already been the target of assassination attempts,[24] reportedly explained to a friend that he was fully aware of the personal safety risks involved in his actions.[25] On 20 May 2014, four days after the Benghazi assault, the GNC announced that it had finally scheduled the long postponed elections that were meant to result in the dissolution of the GNC and its replacement by a new representative assembly, to be known as the House of Representatives. These elections were scheduled for 25 June 2014.[26]

Later in May, after having been ousted from office by the GNC, Ali Zeidan then endorsed Operation Dignity,[27] along with 40 members of parliament,[28] and the heads of the navy,[29] the air-force,[30] and much of the army. In June 2014, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle at Haftar's residence in Benghazi, killing 4 people and injuring at least 3 others. Haftar was not injured in the attack.[31]

In eastern Libya Haftar's air and ground forces remained in place, and seemed to be gaining general support. Over the course of May and June numerous pro Operation Dignity marches were held throughout Libya,[32] and in the June 25 elections, the secularists gained a clear mandate over and against the Islamist agenda.[33] Meanwhile, despite its initial denouncement of Operation Dignity in May,[34] Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani's administration has since continued to give no word of any further official endorsement or denouncement of Haftar's Operation Dignity. However, the newly elected parliament branded Haftar's enemies "terrorists".[35]

Haftar remains resolute that one of the aims of Operation Dignity is to completely dismantle the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as what he considers to be any other Islamist terrorist organizations within Libya.[36][37]

On 24 November 2014 and the following day, warplanes affiliated with Operation Dignity forces attacked Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli, temporarily shutting down of the airport, but also damaging nearby houses.[38][39] In response to the attack on Mitiga, a court in Tripoli issued an arrest warrant for Khalifa Haftar.[40]

Haftar was made commander of the forces of the internationally recognized Tobruk government on 2 March 2015.[41]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Al-Warfalli, Ayman (March 2, 2015). "Libya's Haftar appointed army chief for recognized government". Reuters. 
  2. ^ a b c Borzou Daragahi (May 23, 2014). "Khalifa Haftar, a hard-headed Libyan warrior". Financial Times. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ Chorin, Ethan (May 27, 2014). "The New Danger in Benghazi". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Anderson, Jon Lee (February 23, 2015). "The Unravelling: Libya's New Strongman". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 14, 2015. 
  5. ^ Hamid, Hoda (14 April 2011). "The Real Battle Is Yet To Come". Aljazeera/ Information Clearing House. Retrieved June 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ John Ruedy (1996). Islamism and Secularism in North Africa. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 195. ISBN 0-312-16087-9. 
  7. ^ a b c d Saadah, Ali (May 22, 2014). "Khalifah Haftar - A New Al-Sisi in Libya". Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Mohamed Madi (May 20, 2014). "Profile: Libya's renegade General Khalifa Haftar". BBC News. Archived from the original on August 28, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ Basturk, Levent (May 20, 2014). "Khalifa Haftar: A portrait of a coup general". World Bulletin. Archived from the original on May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  10. ^ Mohamed, Esam (May 18, 2014). "Renegade Libyan general says parliament suspended". Tripoli, Libya. Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ Baker, Russ (April 1, 2011). "The Fake Arab Spring, 2011". 
  12. ^ Valiente, Alexandra (August 28, 2011). "Khalifa Haftar: Libyan CIA Asset". Libya: Libya 360 degree Archive. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  13. ^ M. Brecher & J. Wilkenfeld, A Study of Crisis, p. 92
  14. ^ a b c d e Russ Baker (April 22, 2014). "Is General Khalifa Hifter The CIA's Man In Libya?". Business Insider. Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  15. ^ Schneider, Berry. "Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2014". 
  16. ^ Abigail Hauslohner and Sharif Abdel Kouddous (May 20, 2014). "Khalifa Hifter, the ex-general leading a revolt in Libya, spent years in exile in Northern Virginia". Washington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  17. ^ McGreal, Chris (April 3, 2011). "Libyan rebel efforts frustrated by internal disputes over leadership". The Guardian (Benghazi, Libya). Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  18. ^ "The colonel feels the squeeze". The Economist. May 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2011. 
  19. ^ Mark Urban (April 15, 2011). "The task of forming a more effective anti-Gaddafi army". BBC News. Archived from the original on August 21, 2011. Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Mystery over Libyan rebel commander's death". Al Jazeera. July 29, 2011. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  21. ^ Baroud, Ramzy (February 20, 2014). "The Libyan Bedlam: General Hifter, the CIA and the Unfinished Coup". London, UK: Middle East Online. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  22. ^ Priyanka Boghani (May 31, 2014). "The man at the center of the chaos in Libya: Khalifa Haftar". Global Post. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  23. ^ Elumami, Ahmed; Ulf Laessing (May 18, 2014). "Gunmen loyal to ex-general storm Libyan parliament, demand suspension". Tripoli, Libya. Reuters. Archived from the original on May 24, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Libyan army, ex-rebels clash near airport". The Washington Times. Associated Press. December 11, 2011. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ Oakes, John (May 30, 2014). "Karama – Some Notes On Khalifa Hafter's Operation Dignity". Libya Stories. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Libya announces elections: Will it help calm the violence?". CNN. May 20, 2014. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Operation Dignity gathers support" (in English/Arabic). Tripoli: Libya Herald. May 21, 2014. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  28. ^ "40 Libyan MPs pledge support to renegade general Haftar". Istanbul, Turkey: Worldbulletin News. May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Rogue general gets more top allies". Cape Town, South Africa: News 24. 21 May 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Libya's Interior Ministry Back Rebel General Khalifa Hifter". Nigeria: Nairaland. May 21, 2014. Archived from the original on June 1, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  31. ^ Esam Mohamed (June 4, 2014). "Suicide bomber targets rogue Libyan general's home". Yahoo! News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 10, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  32. ^ Kouddous, Sharif (May 24, 2014). "Thousands march for ‘dignity and reforms". Gulf News (Dubai). Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Libyan poll sees Islamists losing"
  34. ^ Alaa al-Ameri (May 17, 2014). "Actually, There Are a Bunch of Benghazi Conspiracies". Archived from the original on May 21, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Libya crisis: Tensions rise as Tripoli airport seized". BBC. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2015. 
  36. ^ "Liberating Libya: General Vows to Crush Terrorists". June 13, 2014. Archived from the original on July 4, 2014. Retrieved July 5, 2014. 
  37. ^ Mary Fitzgerald (June 7, 2014). "General Haftar's anti-Islamist campaign divides Libyans". BBC News. Archived from the original on August 28, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Bombs Hit Sole Civilian Airport in Libyan Capital". New York Times. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  39. ^ "Tripoli's Maitiga Airport Hit by Libyan Air Force Jet". International Business Times. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  40. ^ "Court issues warrant for Libya's Haftar". Yahoo News. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  41. ^ "Libyan parliament confirms Haftar as army chief". Al Jazeera. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]