US Ambassador meets with Haftar in Dubai
On 19 September, US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland met with the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, in Dubai. Both the US and LNA released contradictory details about the meeting. However, it is thought that Norland stressed to Haftar that the US will be putting its full support behind the planned German-hosted international conference and is eager to see momentum on a negotiated political settlement to the Libyan crisis.
The meeting between Haftar and Norland was the first meeting between the US and Haftar since the LNA launched their assault on Tripoli in April of this year. It is also the first official meeting between the LNA and the US this year, the last being in December 2018 when Haftar met with a series of US officials. Such a meeting suggests US policy towards Libya has entered a new (and more active) phase with the US more willing to make its policy positions clear to Libyan actors. The US appears to be actively supporting the current international status quo on Libya, namely pushing for a UN-backed political process to end the conflict, but it is unclear whether the US would be willing to take more direct action at this stage. While the LNA will want to keep the US on side, it can likely do this by nominally agreeing to participate in a peace process while continuing with its current tactics – strong words alone from the US are unlikely to be enough to incentivise a change in the LNA’s military-driven tactics given it has so far avoided punitive action or international sanctions despite continuing its attempts to seize Tripoli.