By Ken Hanly, a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba Canada

In February 2014 then-retired general Khalifa Haftar appeared on TV in Libya announcing that the General National Congress (GNC) had been dissolved. His actions were condemned at the time as a coup attempt and ridiculous.

Nevertheless, Haftar embarked on a series of "town hall" meetings and began to build his own militia with the support of many who, like him, had experience in the Gadaffi military. Three months, later on May 16, he launched his Operation Dignity with ground and air attacks on pro-Islamic militants in Benghazi. Allies in the Zintan brigades carried out an attack on the Libyan parliament.

At the time, the interim prime minister was Abdullah al-Thinni, who condemned the attack and noted that there was a warrant out for Haftar's arrest. Of course Haftar was never arrested. On March 2, 2015, the same Al-Thinni, as PM of the then internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) government, appointed Haftar as commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army. Haftar maintains that one of the aims of Operation Dignity is to dismantle the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and any other Islamist organizations he considers his enemies. These would include many of the militia supporting the GNA including those from Misrata currently fighting against the Islamic State.

Operation Dignity continues to the present. Some of the operations, such as those in Benghazi, have been against the Islamic State but are also directed at other groups opposed to Haftar such as the Benghazi Shura Council. In Derna, Haftar attacked both the Islamic State and also the Derna Shura Council of Jihadists who had long ago driven the Islamic State from most of Derna. After the Islamic State retreated from the area, Haftar continued to bomb Derna rather than attacking the Islamic State.

It has been over two weeks since Haftar announced he is marching against the Islamic State and will free Sirte. On the western border of IS territory, the Misrata militia now under a unified command are trying to take back territory recently gained by an IS offensive. However, Haftar has done nothing to help. No doubt he is quite happy to let two Islamist forces, both of which he regards as enemies to fight each other. He has even let the IS attack to the west without fear, it seems, that Haftar will at the same time attack them from the east.

Instead, Haftar is busy surrounding Derna and attacking groups who are enemies of the Islamic State and were instrumental in driving them out of Derna. The UN and the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler have said nothing of this operation. Janes notes that rather than attacking the Islamic State so far LNA-allied forces have simply seized some ground from Misrata-allied militia:


Two of the main elements, the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces approaching from the east, and Misratan militias approaching from the west, fought each other near the town of Zillah on 3 May 2016, as the LNA took the opportunity to seize Jufra airbase from its rivals.


The Derna Shura Council has declared a state of emergency and is mobilizing to prevent Haftar's militia from advancing towards the city just days after Haftar announced Operation Volcano. On Saturday, the Command of Operation Volcano warned Derna citizens not to protect fighters of the Shura Council who control Derna.

The Command said that all houses and farms harboring the fighters and military vehicles would be bombed by the air force. Haftar's move takes advantage of the fact that the Shura Council fighters are already exhausted and no doubt short on ammunition after they have been fighting the Islamic State for months.

The Shura Council members are classified by Haftar as terrorists and just as much his enemy as the Islamic State. He simply allows the Islamic State to fight his other enemies such as the Misratans and the Shura Council when he cannot. The IS near Derna was losing so he took over from them. The Islamic State fighters have returned to Islamic State held territory to fight against other enemies of Haftar the Misratans. None of this is to be discussed in the western press because it has nothing to do with immigrants or threatening advances by the Islamic State or Hillary Clinton.

An anonymous member of the Tobruk-based HoR said that Haftar, leader of Operation Dignity, considers himself higher than the highest authority of the Libyan state. Apparently the member thinks this is the HoR. He said Haftar should be summoned before the HoR to be questioned about the results of Operation Dignity that he noted had gone on now for two years. He said: “Some members told me that Haftar was summoned by the HoR many times, but he did not go there.” He wondered whether the HoR or Haftar was the supreme power. Ask the PM al-Thinni who was twice stopped from flying out of the country by Haftar, The member concluded: “After endorsing the UN-proposed government of the Skhirat political agreement and after it assumes duty, Haftar will be definitely summoned for questioning.” This may never happen or if it does it will be with the provision that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army.


Note: The article was first published in the Digital Journal 

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer