Libya's decisive war

Mohamed Abu Al-Fadl
Thursday 18 Apr 2019

The Libyan National Army was forced to march on Tripoli to wrest the state from the hands of militias. Regional and international powers that blindly refuse to see this should reassess

I couldn’t resist writing about the military operation carried out by the Libyan National Army in Tripoli. I was appalled at the amount of fallacies propagated by some politicians so as to keep afloat the militias and attempt to legitimise them. They thought that defending terrorists and putting them against a regular military institution will preserve their interests in the future.

The messages sent by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s during his meeting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army last Sunday, hit their targets directly. They confirmed the necessity of getting rid of the militias because they hamper building a civil state and represent a threat to regional security. Moreover, the fact that some of their elements are hunkering down in Tripoli will attract their peers in neighbouring countries whose leaders want to get rid of hard-liners.

Deliberate disregard for the purposes for which the extremists are engaged in their battles, and directing criticism at Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, aims at covering the real role played by those favoured by some regional and international parties. Moreover, it gives terrorists the opportunity to regain the initiative following the recent arrival of arms shipments from Turkey and Qatar, including American banned Stinger missiles and a ship full of landmines in order to be planted on main roads to hinder the advance of the Libyan Army.

The Tripoli operation was carried out due to urgent security circumstances. If the national forces were late in confronting the terrorists, Libyans would have faced a far fiercer reality. For the capital was transformed into a Mecca for many leaders coming from Syria in the hope that it would be an alternative center for assembling the remnants of the Islamic State group. This project lost some of its lustre among international powers that embraced it and provided it with safe havens.

Politics is taking twisted forms in Libya. Making matters appear as if there is a military operation in Tripoli going on between forces affiliated to Haftar and other forces associated with the Government of National Accord is done to divert attention from the pivotal role played by armed gangs. The Libyan Armed Forces advanced on many fronts and began to enjoy international legitimacy. Its head is welcomed openly by heads and leaders of several states. It has a known institutional structure, a general command and commanders for different branches and includes a wide spectrum of Libyan nationals under which stand officers and soldiers from all parts of Libya. It doesn’t want to waste the favourable opportunity at hand for defending the country’s national security and repelling dangers brought by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda. Details of military developments confirm that the extremists and the countries backing them know quite well that they are engaged in their last battle in the region. It is either victory or the guillotine. They are fighting ferociously and are standing on the frontlines because their loss in Tripoli means their end for decades to come. Thus, the Libyan Army needs time to liberate the capital from the terrorists’ grip and their financiers.

Slackness in implementing security arrangements endorsed last September led to an escalating danger of the armed gangs, for they understood that the financial allocations needed for the Ministry of Interior to dissolve their bases weren’t designated, meaning that they would continue to be relied upon. Slackness in changing the Central Bank governor and the head of the Libyan Oil Corporation meant that funds were rolling their way incessantly. The focus turned to the now frozen National Conference as if it were a personal project of UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé, who succeeded with distinction in making it null of national content and attractive to Islamist components. Insistence on the conference without providing objective conditions for holding it was a strong motivation for the National Army to march decisively, aiming to halt momentum towards legitimising the status of the militias. A state can’t be built on the shoulders of terrorists, highwaymen, drug dealers and those with personal interests.

The Abu-Dhabi understandings between Haftar and Al-Sarraj in February were a gift for exiting the bottleneck. However, delays by some parties prevented their materialisation. Those responsible for missing this chance are now crying over it, so as to cover up their inaction.

The Libyan Army is performing a serious move now to pull the country away from chaos. Political matters won’t be resolved while civil authorities are subordinate to instructions dictated by leaders of armed battalions and ideoligised groups. Libya won’t attain peace and stability without a unified military institution capable of controlling the security situation on all fronts.

What’s interesting is that some figures are speaking now about a humanitarian truce, or more accurately a truce following huge losses inflicted on the terrorist gangs. Where were those figures when the militias detained great numbers of people? Why were they silent while violations were committed across recent years? Reports of neutral international human rights organisations mentioned systematic violence and widescale massacres that many citizens fell victim to.

Simplifying the crisis and attempting to confine it to the human element only is manipulating the international community’s feelings, deviating from the right path, and dragging Libya into new labyrinths and giving culprits time to rearrange their positions.

What’s needed from all international parties is to stand at the same distance from all forces and reconsider their confused approaches. Because what’s happening may be the beginning of a civil war that will hurt their interests later, and they must join forces in helping the Libyan Armed Forces get rid of a horrible nightmare that threatens the entire region.

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