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Libyan Afterparty
Will Egypt’s Champion in Libya Take Benghazi?

Libya’s government, now hiding out in Tobruk near the Egyptian border, has backed a former Qaddafi general in the hopes that he can restore some of its power in that broken country. The forces of its champion, General Khalifa Haftar, are currently fighting alongside the Libyan army to reclaim Benghazi from Islamist militias, and they may well win.

The recognized government is sanguine about its victory, having announced that it will relocate to Benghazi once the city is secure. Its backers, chief among them neighboring Egypt, will also be delighted. (Quite a few outside powers are involved in this “proxy war”: Egypt and the UAE back the Tobruk government, while Qatar and Turkey support the rival parliament in Tripoli.) Ahram Online has a report on Egyptian President Sisi’s objectives in Libya, including Egypt’s hopes that it can engineer some sort of political accord between the warring parties, while relying on Haftar as their main ally:

Haftar remains what informed Egyptian sources say is the only or most workable option for Libya now, or in the near future.

“We hoped to have a better alternative, someone with more influence on the ground, but for now Haftar is the only choice for our cooperation,” said one Egyptian source. “We examined a few options, but they seem to be as weak or even weaker.”

While trying to give Haftar military strength and expertise, Cairo is also – in the words of one western diplomat – “racing against time to formulate a political roadmap for Libya that could be subject to the consent of as many Libyan political groups as possible.”

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to try to assemble a working group to draft a Libyan road map this autumn, said one Egyptian diplomat.

Haftar is part of the political scheme as well, the same diplomat said.

Egypt has been far from hands-off in this fight; it has offered training and intelligence to pro-government forces, including Haftar’s, and reportedly provided airstrikes in support of the general’s march into Benghazi. Airstrikes might not to be the limit of Egypt’s show of force in Libya, given the threat this failed state poses to Egypt’s border. But if Gen. Haftar and the government forces continue to be effective, Egypt will have less cause to intervene.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Toppling dictators just did not work in Egypt and Libya. We can only hope that the new “strong men” are better than the old ones.

    • Andrew Allison

      Or Iraq, or the attempt in Syria, etc., etc. When will the US come to grips with the fact that establishing democracy requires acceptance of the rule of law, and attempting to do so in essentially lawless societies is a waste of time and resources. The world leaned nothing from the death of Tito, which resulted in a reversion to the ethnic conflicts which totalitarianism had kept under control, with horrifying results in the former Yugoslavia. That history is now repeating itself in the Levant.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Both the Bush people and the Obama people wanted to believe that secularism would triumph over squabbling Islam at the ballot box—–if we just followed our democratic instinct to oppose various dictators. “Lawlessness” is bad enough, but Islamic lawlessness is a special kind of mess. People in these places simply do not vote to put the Islam wars in a back seat position. Authoritarians are actually required. We have had to learn this by costly experience, and some people in the USA still don’t understand it. Maybe Tunisia can lead. Maybe others over CONSIDERABLE time.

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