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Does Libya have its own Al-Sisi in the making?

27 11 68

The town of Harawah lies around 80 kilometres east of Sirte and nearly 550 kilometres east of Tripoli. I drove there earlier this month to see the most westerly territory in Libya controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by former General, now Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

No one expected Haftar’s self-styled LNA to reach this far into western Libya when he announced his campaign in 2014 to rid Libya of all “terror” groups and bring back security. At that time, Benghazi and Derna in the east were divided between Ansar Al-Sharia, Al-Qaeda, Daesh and a host of other Islamist groups who fought against former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

After a bloody war, a jubilant Haftar appeared on TV in July 2017 to declare the “liberation” of Benghazi; almost a year later, in June 2018, the LNA took Derna. This made the LNA the dominant force in eastern Libya and Haftar himself an essential part of any settlement in the conflict-ridden country.

READ: Egypt accuses Qatar, Turkey of destabilising Libya

Earlier this month, LNA troops were deployed in Fezzan, in the south of Libya, for the first time in seven years. They are attempting to expel armed groups from Chad which are roaming the area, and rein-in quarrelling tribal militias.

On the road from Tripoli I passed through nine checkpoints east of Misrata on the way to Harawah. They are controlled by a Misrata-dominated militia named Al-Bunyan Al-Marsos, the US-backed group that defeated Daesh in Sirte in 2016. This particular militia remains the strongest anti-Haftar force in western Libya. On paper, Al-Bunyan Al-Marsos is part of the UN-imposed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj. The GNA does not recognise Haftar, nor does he accept its legitimacy.

The LNA’s counterattack in 2014 came after activists, politicians, journalists, security professionals and army officers were........

© Middle East Monitor