A top Libyan and alleged CIA’s connected army renegade general travels to Russia this week to secure lethal and other support from the Russian government. A visit western security analysts considered a huge blow from a man considered a former US ally.
The general has aligned his resistance in the country with the eastern parliament and government based in Tobruk.
General Haftar has been pugnacious in a two-year military campaign with his Libyan National Army against Islamic extremists and other opponents in Benghazi areas.
After the uprising in Libyan that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country is deeply divided.
An enforceable UN arms embargo in place since 2011 prohibits the transfer of weapons into Libya. Only the country’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, which Haftar opposes, can bring in weapons and related material with the approval of a UN Security Council committee.
The general has received backing from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The Kremlin did not state whether it might give Haftar military support.
“Moscow is in touch with various Libyan representatives and contacts with Haftar take place as part of this process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
Haftar’s allies have previously cultivated ties with Russia, which printed banknotes for an eastern breakaway branch of Libya’s central bank. “We spoke in general,” Haftar told reporters after the talks with Lavrov.
“We explained our position with regards to arms supplies. As a great country, Russia respects the arms embargo until it indicates it is an unjust verdict.“
Born Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, the general is a Libyan marshal 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.
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. 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. 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 “Libya’s most potent warlord,” having fought “with and against nearly every significant faction” in Libya’s conflicts, and as having a “reputation for unrivalled military experience
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.
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.
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. 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.
Gaddafi demanded Haftar’s soldiers be returned to Libya, but the Americans arranged for them to fly to Zaire instead. There, half of 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.
When U.S. financial aid to Zaire was not forthcoming, Zaire expelled the remainder to Kenya. 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.
Haftar moved to suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C., living in Falls Church until 2007 and then in he moved to Vienna, Virginia.
In March 1996, Haftar took part in a failed uprising against Gaddafi in the mountains of eastern Libya, before returning to the U.S.
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.
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. Younis was assassinated later that summer.