The Haftar Factor in Libya’s Puzzle
In an article for Aspenia, Mattia Toaldo discusses the role played by Khalifa Haftar within the context of Libya’s political and military dynamics, highlighting how Haftar’s web of relations is a good example of the increasing convergence of some regional and international powers in Libya, and how Haftar has managed to build and sustain his power base in the east.
Haftar’s popularity, particularly but not exclusively in the east, is due to a combination of different factors. First of all, he is seen as the embodiment of the idea of a single national army that fights and overcomes the myriad militias now creating chaos and violence. Secondly, his programme to eradicate political Islam and its armed groups can count on widespread distrust, when not hatred, for Islamists. Thirdly, Haftar is seen as a man of law and order in an increasingly lawless country. The more anarchy there is, the higher his political fortunes. Last but not least, being a man of Western Libya (his Ferjan tribe stretches between Sirte and the outskirts of Tripoli), Haftar managed to become the champion of Cyrenaica, the eastern part of Libya that was marginalised under Muammar Gaddafi, and fears a similar marginalisation after him.
It is also true that Haftar gives rise to much opposition from other armed groups and distrust from many civilian stakeholders, particularly in western and southern Libya, which do not share his zero-sum game military logic. Whereas his supporters see him as the champion of a national army, his opponents feel the return of an authoritarian military rule and one-man power, a feeling that is often fed by pro-Haftar propaganda echoing the style of the Gaddafi regime.
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