Saturday, May 17, 2014

Heftar's Benghazi Battle

Notionally retired Libyan general Khalifa Heftar is leading a battle against Benghazi's militias:
The former general...seemed to be acting on his own initiative, but gained support from members of the army in eastern Libya. A column of personnel and armored vehicles moved against three militia bases around the city early Friday. Jet fighters from the Benghazi air base flew low over the city and helicopters fired on at least one militia position.
Libya’s caretaker prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, went on television to deny that the attack had been ordered by the central command. He added that the attack would hamper security efforts against terrorism.
Yet a spokesman for Mr. Heftar, Col. Mohammad al-Hejazi, said the force that had been gathered represented the “real national army.” He announced that the offensive was called Operation Karama, which means dignity, and said the command had been formed to combat growing terrorism in eastern Benghazi.
Significant background here is that back in February, Heftar went on TV and announced he was leading a military coup, even though nothing of the kind happened.  He has criticized Libya's government, quite accurately, for being ineffective in controlling the militias.  Perhaps he decided he would have better luck rallying troops to take on the militias directly; if his own ambitions played a role in February's non-coup, that could also serve as a basis to later dominate the government.

Michael Collins Dunn notes that Heftar also certainly has CIA links.  Whether they are relevant in the current battle is anyone's guess.



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