Libya expert Frederic Wehrey writes that the international community must stop Haftar in order to end the bloodshed. Wehrey notes that continuing support for Haftar from the UAE, Russia and even tacit support from the United States is worsening the suffering of average Libyans. Imediately after the Berlin conference, Haftar’s militias killed 11 GNA fighters near Sirte, breaking what was already a shaky ceasefire and continues his attack on Tripoli.
Wehrey describes Haftar’s initial success in light of the GNA’s lack of popularity and it being “inept and beholden to corrupt militias”. However, Haftar’s move to take control of Libya torpedoed what looked to be a promising process underway led by the UN to bring into power a functioning government and address the “militias menace”. Haftar has managed to portray himself as an authoritarian and anti-Islamist, thus gaining support from key Arab states like the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The French as well, seeking to contain Islamic terrorism to Africa, also see Haftar as a stabilizing force and provide him with clandestine military aid.
However, due to Haftar’s ineffectiveness, he was not able to take Tripoli, even with significant foreign military backing. After tens of thousands were displaces, and thousands killed, including hundreds of civilians, Russia, sensing a geopolitical opportunity, began sending in mercenaries in September to help break the stalemate. With each move, Wehrey describes, Russia gradually increases its control over Haftar and pushes him into a ceasefire that suits Moscow’s interests more than anyone. That is, until Haftar walked out of Moscow without agreeing to a truce.
Russia’s increased involvement led Turkey to up it’s own involvement, forcing Libya to back its controversial claims to Eastern Mediterranean energy stores.
Wehrey concludes that the “much hyped” Berlin summit failed to formalize the ceasefire, and emboldened by arms from his backers, continues his offensive and shut down a big part of Libya’s oil exports, risking the country’s economic stability.
Wehrey calls on the international community to stop Haftar in order to “avoid catastrophe”, noting one GNA commander told him that “Haftar will not accept a ceasefire unless America twists his ear”. Wehrey specifically called on the United States to clarify its policy and apply its “unique leverage” to stop Haftar from illegally selling oil on the global market and not through the NOC, get the UAE and other backers to cease their shipments of arms, and back the UN Security Council’s ceasefire resolution with punitive measures against those who break the arms embargo and who abuse human rights.