This report is based on the visit of a delegation of British politicians, paid for by a right-wing think tank, to meet with renegade retired military man Khalifa Haftar .
The delegation was led by Conservative party insider and CMEC director Leo Doherty and included Kwasi Kwarteng MP, a backbench Conservative MP and prominent Brexiteer who is in favour of expanding the UK’s commercial relations with the Middle East.
Mr. Doherty and MP Kwarteng based their finding on the words of the retired general and his advisors without any attempt to check his claims. They did not visit Tripoli.
I will insert my observations and corrections (in RED).
The report (with my insertions)
Inside Libya: Chaos in the Mediterranean
By Kwasi Kwarteng MP and Leo Docherty
• Field Marshal Haftar sees his mission as fighting jihadist terrorism. (notice the choice of the loaded term (jihadist)
• A large degree of order and governance exists in Eastern Libya.
• Despite being under pressure, the East remains stable (however, Haftar’s troops ‘exhume and crucify enemy dead’ in Benghazi) while the West is plagued by disorder and insecurity. (They did not even plan to visit Tripoli and see for themselves)
• The House of Representatives is a nucleus for the development of a Libyan Parliamentary system, and has a geographical reach across Libya. (All of Libya !?)
• Western Libya, particularly Tripoli itself, is dominated by warlords and criminal gangs (15-20 thousands of Gaddafi gangs released few days before his retreat form Tripoli); they all have an interest in prolonging the relative confusion in the West.
• The UK should urgently engage with Haftar, the LNA and the HoR (LNA or Libyan National Army is the name given by Haftar to his militia and it does not represent the Libyan Army)
• The UK should support the LNA to secure Libya’s borders and bring an end to the illegal trafficking of people from Libya’s sea ports. (the strategic goal is to put an end to migration through Mediterranean)
• The UK should reconsider its view of the GNA and acknowledge its limited capacity to deliver any kind of governance or security for Libya. (The weakness of GNA is impeded in its formation)
DELEGATION TO LIBYA – MARCH 2017
In the first week of March 2017 CMEC Vice Chairman Kwasi Kwarteng MP, and CMEC Director Leo Docherty, travelled to Libya to meet the Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. They also met the Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), Aguila Saleh, and members of the House of Representatives.
The purpose of the delegation was to gain a deeper understanding of the situation inside Libya itself. (deeper understanding (!!) by talking to three people in a military barracks (!!))
Since the revolution and overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 the political and economic conditions of that country remain extremely fluid. The enthusiastic optimism associated with the visit of Prime Minister David Cameron to Tripoli and Benghazi in September 2011, accompanied by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has not been sustained. For the British government, Libya became less of a priority, while responsibility for fixing Libya’s many intractable problems, mostly regarding security and political governance, were left to the UN and EU.
Despite the best efforts of these organisations, Libya appears to many observers as nothing other than a failed state. Riven by militias, home to ISIS and Al Qaeda, and with unguarded borders, Libya appears simply incapable of constraining the movement of tens of thousands of migrants who travel through Africa to Europe every year. (how can any respected person call Libya “the home of ISIS” after what happened in Sirt!)
It has been plausibly argued that the UK, despite its central role in the toppling of Gaddafi, has simply not paid enough attention to Libya since 2011.
The delegation travelled to Libya on a flight from Alexandria to Al Bayda. From Al Bayda the CMEC team travelled by road to Al Rajma (near Benghazi), Al Marj and Tobruk, from where a flight was eventually taken back to Alexandria. (They did not even drive through the city of Benghazi)
The meetings took place in Field Marshal Haftar’s Military Camp in Al Rajma, in and around the city of Al Bayda and in Tobruk. The circuitous route afforded ample opportunity to closely observe the situation on the ground. (the road map of the visit was planned with a purpose!!)
The visit took place against the background of attacks against the LNA-held oil terminals of Al Sider and Ras Lanuf, on the western edge of Libya’s oil crescent, by militias aligned with the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli but reportedly containing jihadist elements.
The loss of the oil terminal is a significant operational setback for the LNA. A counter attack is now underway and the battle continues as this report goes to press. (The report writers were not aware that the Haftar’s counter attack has benefited from the aid of the United Arab Emirates or Egypt – or both).
1. Field Marshal Haftar sees his mission as fighting jihadist terrorism. (most of the so called jihadists were responsible for defeating Gaddafi’s forces with the help of Nato in 2011)
Field Marshal Haftar has a very clear focus on the operational challenge of defeating the jihadist militias in the west of Libya. (Haftar’s only focus is clearly to be the next Libyan dictator)
He struck the delegation very much as an operational solider, a ‘soldiers’s soldier’, who did not concern himself with grand political strategy. (The delegations were naive about what struck them)
Despite the ongoing attacks in the oil crescent, Haftar appeared composed and confident when the delegation met him. He sees himself as a Libyan nationalist and describes his mission as ridding Libya of the multitude of militias – both Islamist and criminal – that dominate the western half of the country. (If that is true, why doesn’t he move onto the so called western half?)
Although an observant Muslim, he appears to be largely secular in his world view. (Haftar has no world views secular or otherwise. He is a wanna-be dictator)
Haftar appears to be a self-confident military man, who is proud of his achievements (what achievements?). He described to the delegation a series of military operations over the last three years, often in minute detail.
He spoke about the worsening security situation in Libya and the rise of jihadist militias that encouraged him to lead a military offensive against them. (what encouraged him SISI not ISIS)
This became known as Operation Karama – Dignity.
In 2014 I called for people to gather in Rajma with their own weapons … 300 people came. We attacked the headquarters of the Islamists in Hawari, west of Benghazi and killed their leaders … after this 3,000 people joined us. Now we have 60,000.
Benghazi is now free of jihadists, only a few remain on the western edge.
Haftar points out that the LNA, since taking control of the oil crescent in September 2016, has allowed the oil to flow and the revenues to continue to be paid unhindered to the National Oil Company (NOC).
The funds go to the NOC and then to the Central Bank … but they are in the hands of the militias – the militias call the shots and Libyans are still poor. (the delegation need to find out how many millions he managed to steel in the last couple of years)
Haftar described his determination to secure the oil crescent and re-take the lost terminals. He also outlined his belief in the LNA’s ability – if enhanced militarily – to pacify the Jufra region in Southern Libya. (his ideas of enhancing his militias is to dump many more millions in his bank accounts)
Haftar sees his mission as a national project covering all of Libya.
Both Haftar and the Speaker of the HoR described their desire for close relations with the United Kingdom.
Haftar appealed for British help:
We can end this chaos but we call on your government to help us. One of Haftar’s senior advisers described the suspicions many Libyans have about the presence of UK Special Forces in Libya who, while they are known to be present in the East, are not actively engaging with the LNA. (so the British are here already!)
There is a large degree of scepticism over UK’s role and intentions given the discreet supported currently given by other major powers.
The adviser stated: People are asking – the Egyptians are backing us, the UAE, France and the Russians are backing us .. the Americans probably will do … what are the British waiting for?
2. A large degree of order and governance exists in Eastern Libya. (actually it is a military junta order)
During the long road trips between Al Bayda, Al Rajma and Tobruk many well organised police and military check points could be seen.
Traffic police were also visible. In the urban centres normal civilian life appeared to be going ahead unhindered by any security concern. Shops and restaurants were busy with customers.
It was striking to the delegation that every soldier we saw appeared well equipped, and dressed in a distinctive military uniform.
One unusual sight the delegation witnessed was a queue of around two hundred people outside the Wahda Bank in Al Marj.
These people were waiting to take cash from their bank accounts. Such withdrawals have been severely restricted due to the withholding of funds from the East of Libya by the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli.
This is set against an economic backdrop in which Libya’s GDP has, according to some measures, roughly halved since the revolution of 2011. (the whole thing was orchestrated)
3. Despite being under pressure, the East remains stable while the West is plagued by disorder and insecurity. (the writers testimony has no value because they did not visit the West to observe the disorder and insecurity)
Field Marshal Haftar and the LNA complain about a lack of money (please more $,£,€, ..).
The recent successful attacks by militias against LNA forces in the oil crescent show that the LNA is militarily vulnerable. (Haftar militia exist because of foreign air force, but no boots on the ground)
Despite the LNA reportedly receiving some military support from the UAE, Egypt, and Russia, it is by all accounts under-trained and under-equipped.
Despite controlling the oil crescent since September 2016, Haftar has not stopped the flow of oil from Libya’s oil crescent.
Revenues from sales of oil to the international market are still flowing to the National Oil company and the Libyan Central Bank.
The LNA continues to be adversely affected by the reported failure of the Libyan Central Bank to honour its agreement to send 40% of oil revenues to Benghazi, while 60% is reportedly received by Tripoli.
Meanwhile, in the west a large number of different militias – some criminal, some jihadist – prevail.
These include ISIS, Ansar Al Sharia, the Derna Mujahidin Shura Council, the Islamist Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shura Council, Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, Special Deterrent Force (Tripoli) and the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (a coalition of Islamist militias, including Ansar Al Sharia, the 17 February Brigade and the Rafallah Al Sahati Brigade).
In the west many of the militia leaders, such as Abdelhakim Belhadj and Khaled Al Sharif (was handed over to Gaddafi by the British) , were involved with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an organisation with loose links to Al Qaeda. Other leaders, such as Salah Badi and Ali Al Sallabi, were imprisoned under the Gaddafi regime. (Alternative facts !!)
The political motivations of these different agents remain unclear. They do not have any organised political programmes, nor do they operate under party political labels. On the other hand, they have been effective at creating militias on the ground, and carving themselves positions of power and influence. (Garbage)
The commitment of such people to a strong, functioning central government in Libya is doubtful.
Many people feel that these militia leaders are direct beneficiaries of the ongoing political instability in Libya. The militia men have a vested interest in prolonging the chaos.
These militias reportedly derive significant income from the trafficking of migrants through Libya towards sea ports in Western Libya where they embark for Italy and Europe – in many cases perishing at sea.
It is reported that the GNA and President Serraj have absolutely no control over any geographical area of Western Libya. Their means of confronting the jihadist militant groups are negligible.
The GNA has conspicuously failed to secure Libya’s borders with the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia. They have consequently done little to stem the flow of illegally trafficked migrants towards the Mediterranean coast.
The President of the GNA, Fayez Serraj, is derided in the East as an ineffectual figurehead who remains at the mercy of militias in and around Tripoli. (Garbage)
The GNA has no military capability of its own, while President Serraj was dismissed to us as a foreigner of indiscriminate Levantine origin – his father was described as being a Palestinian immigrant who worked for the British Army during the Second World War. (Garbage)
Serraj was also derided for having been an unimpressive performer in the HoR before he was selected as president; he reportedly never made a speech.
Putting these statements and suggestions together, it would appear that much of Serraj’s support is derived from militia leaders, who naturally benefit from the disorder and lack of central government in the West.
Militia leaders, such Abdelhakim Belhaj, are directly benefiting from the traffic in migrants. (Garbage)
Each migrant has to pay up to US$1,000 to be trafficked to Europe. A strong central government in Libya would naturally be a threat to this nefarious line of business.
The point which cannot be stressed enough is that many are benefitting financially, and in terms of status and prestige, from the continuing political chaos in the west of Libya.
Security within Tripoli itself was described as “very poor”. A member of the HoR, elected to a constituency in Libya’s Southern region and former resident of Tripoli said:
Tripoli is like Paris by day, like Kandahar by night (ha ha ha ha )
Another important centre of power in the West is the city of Misrata. It is a prosperous sea port, and a significant economic centre with a large presence of various militia. Misrata is reportedly backed financially and militarily by Qatar, Turkey and Sudan. It is perhaps the largest obstacle to the LNA’s attempt to unify Libya under one command. (Garbage)
4. The House of Representatives is a nucleus for the development of a Libyan Parliamentary system, and has a geographical reach across Libya.
The House of Representatives (HoR) – now sitting in Tobruk after its flight from Tripoli in the summer of 2014 – is composed of 188 Members of whom around 130-150 reportedly still attend meetings.
Significantly, 32 Members are women, and the HoR apparently has a broad reach across the whole of Libya. On the day the delegation visited 114 Members were reported to be sitting.
Members of the HoR are a varied collection of political activists; they do not necessarily all support Haftar and the LNA. Most of the Members that the delegation met expressed gratitude that the LNA had provided the security to allow the HoR to continue sitting in Tobruk.
The delegation met two female MPs, one of whom, as a representative for the Tebu tribe in Murzuq, Southern Libya, voiced her complete support for the LNA. Murzuq is roughly 1,500 km from Tobruk.
Members of the HoR expressed dismay that their assembly was no longer supported by the international community. A Member representing a constituency in Libya’s Western Mountains said:
We are baffled by the position of Britain…and the support given to the GNA…which is reliant on the Islamist militias…it is not democratic.
The HoR, having been elected in 2014, is a flawed and somewhat disorganised body. It does, however, offer a starting point for Libya’s democratic development if the country can achieve a measure of political stability in the near future. (propaganda)
1. The UK should urgently engage with Haftar, the LNA and the HoR and support their efforts to defeat the Islamist militias in Western Libya. A united, democratic Libya can only progress if the country is pacified. The LNA is the only means of achieving this. (!!)
2. The UK should support the LNA to secure Libya’s borders bring an end to the illegal trafficking of people from Libya’s sea ports. This is urgent on both humanitarian and security grounds. (be our guests)
3. The UK should reconsider its view of the GNA and acknowledge its limited capacity to deliver any kind of governance or security for Libya.
About the writers:
Kwasi Kwarteng is the Member of Parliament for Spelthorne in Surrey. He is the author of a number of books including Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World.
Leo Docherty is the Director of the Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC).He is the author of Desert of Death: A Soldier’s Journey From Iraq to Afghanistan.