By Khalid Mahmoud
Asharq Al-Awsat learned on Saturday of indirect contact between U.S. President Donald Trump representatives and leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA)General Khalifa Haftar, indicating the openness of the Trump administration to the Libyan file unlike his predecessor Barack Obama.
U.S. and Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo was exerting undisclosed efforts to launch direct talks between Haftar and Trump’s administration. An official close to the talks uncovered that the U.S. was lately leaning towards reconsidering ways of dealing with Haftar, currently considered as the strongman in Libya. However, the official said this development does not prevent Washington from holding contacts with other players in Libya.
Walid Phares, a Trump foreign policy adviser, had announced on Friday during an interview with a local Libyan television channel that if there were any contacts between the U.S. administration and an official military party in Libya, it would be with the Libyan Army headed by Haftar.
Libyan military officials said that Trump’s administration could achieve a major breakthrough in the performance of the Libyan army against terrorist groups operating in the country. The officials said such breakthrough could be realized if Washington agrees to arm and help the army, similar to what U.S. forces did when they offered air military support to forces combatting ISIS in the city of Sirte.
The Western-Haftar rapprochement witnessed in the last few weeks grew after the general’s army controlled Libya’s al-Hilal strategic oil area and became closer to clearing the extremist groups from the city Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and the birthplace of the 2011 armed revolt that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Meanwhile, Libya’s Chief of Staff Brigadier General Abdel-Razek al-Nadhouri said there is no solution in Libya other than having the groups currently operating in the Darna city east the country hand over their arms to the Army as soon as possible.