In the chaos of post-NATO intervention Libya, one man has emerged who seems to command enough power and the loyalty of enough militias and political groups to actually make a bid to control the country. His name is Khalifa Haftar, and he’s variously known as a renegade, a CIA spy, a warlord, a defector, and the man who might one day lead Libya.The Economist gives us the background:
As the weak elected government in Tripoli proves unable to assert its authority over a proliferation of unruly militias, two camps are emerging. Broadly speaking, one represents Islamist factions of varied stripes, from hardened jihadists to suit-and-tie-wearing businessmen. The other unites a range of anti-Islamist nationalists, federalists and tribal militias, including rump elements of the Qaddafi-era national army. At the head of this loose nationalist alliance is a retired general, Khalifa Haftar, who defected from Qaddafi in the 1980s and spent years in America, where he is often said to have co-operated with the CIA.
Haftar reportedly commands the loyalty of “key army units, political parties and tribal forces,” the Guardian reports. He has taken the battle to rival militias and brigades of fighters linked to al-Qaeda. On Wednesday, jets from an air force division loyal to Haftar bombed Islamist militia bases in Benghazi. The Islamists, including Ansar al-Sharia, the group that is thought to be responsible for the 9/11/12 attack, are at war with Haftar’s faction and accuse him of being an American agent.The United States is apparently monitoring his progress but not yet backing him. That may change. Very few other Libyans appear to be able to exert any kind of control over the chaos, and Haftar at this point appears to be fighting the groups Washington doesn’t like. He also appears to have the backing of powerful Libyan interest groups that want to re-engage the United States. But it might be a task too great for Haftar to bring Libya’s disparate political and military groups together in a peaceful way—or to bring them together at all. It probably won’t be pretty. As one analyst says, Haftar’s faction is “just another militia.”