Khalifa Belqasim Haftar was born in 1943 in Ajdabiya and he’s member of al Firjan tribe. Finishing his secondary studies in Darnah, he was enrolled in the « Royal Military Academy » in Benghazi, then he was appointed in 1966 to the artillery corps.
The beginning of his career was under the orders of Muammar Gaddafi, who recruited cadets to prepare a plot against the Libyan King Sidi Muhammad Idris Al-Mahdi As-sanusi. Haftar participated in the coup d’état of 1969 with the Free Officers’ Movement – recruited by Gaddafi – who implemented the plans managed by « Revolutionary Command Council » (RCC). Afterwards, he was promoted as Capitan by the new leader of the Libyan Arabic Republic. In 1971, he traveled to Egypt, where he was formed to be an artillery commander of brigades and battalions.
In 1973, he commanded a Libyan contingent of the Libyan army, during the « Yom Kippur war » against Israel. He participated into the crossing of the Suez Canal alongside the Egyptian Army and was decorated by them. Some unconfirmed reports claim that Haftar tried to resign in 1974 and 1976 of army. Two years after the Arab-Israeli war he was nominated Commander of Tobruk’s Defence, after which until 1978, Commander of « Jamahiriya » Air Defence.
Following the short-war on the Libyan-Egyptian border, Gaddafi ridded out the army and Khalifa has been reassigned to other units.
Capitan Haftar was sent in the Soviet Union to follow general courses before being engaged in the Libyans manoeuvers on the Chadian border in 1980. Gaddafi had also promoted Haftar as Colonel before going back for one more time in U.R.S.S at the Frunze Military Academy in Moscow. In the 80s’ Colonel Haftar was Commander of Tobruk and after of the Eastern Libya.
Haftar and hundreds of Libyans soldiers took part in the « Toyota war » against Chadian President, Hissène Habré under Gaddafi’s regime. They were arrested at fifty kilometers from Wadi Dum in 87′ by the Chadian forces, backed by France and USA, following a series of strategic mistakes during the Fada’s offensive; indeed the Tebu trackers broke relations with the Jamahiriya forces because Gaddafi tried to assassinate their leader. This year was the beginning of « new Haftar » following Gaddafi’s refusal to acknowledge the presence of prisoners of war (POW) in the Chadian war. Haftar asked Habré to introduce him to Mohammed Yousef el-Magariaf, head of movement called « Libyan National Salvation Front » (LNSF), formed in 1981 and opposing the Libyan dictator.
In 1988, Haftar and 700 of the 2000 POW’s integrated the so called Libyan National Army (LNA) – same name used today – a military wing of the LNSF supported by the USA. During this time the Libyan forces were also named « Libyans Contras« . Meanwhile, President Ronald Regan thought Muammar Gaddafi was involved in the Berlin bombing of 1986, which killed 2 US soldiers, 1 Turkish citizen and injured 229 persons.
Haftar and his troops received trainings from C.I.A in a base near N’Djamena to prepare a plot in Libya – former C.I.A agent admitted that. Haftar denies having links with the CIA, but does not deny receiving U.S assistance in Chad to fight Gaddafi. During the coup d’état of 1990 lead by Idriss Déby in Chad, with weapons and supplies support from M. Gaddafi, Haftar was exfiltrated out to Zaire until February 1990 as the US Congress refused to pay Zaire’s president as it was concerned about human right violation and corruption. He and his hundreds men flew off to Nigéria in an US Hercules 145 only for one day. The USA asked Kenya for ninety days of hosting Haftar and his troops, while in exchange the United States released $9.6 million in military aid to Nairobi. On May 16, 1991 approximately 350 remaining Libyan refugees were permitted to fly in USA.
In 1993, Gaddafi discovered links and a possible plot against him, between LNSF and Haftar, based then in Virginia (USA). The Libyan dictator gave order to arrest and to execute plotters who were from Bani Walid. On February 13, 1994, Colonel Haftar resigned from LNSF due to the failed plot in Libya. He created « Libyan Change and Reform Movement » which operated outside the country.
On March 2011, Colonel Haftar came back to Benghazi – under embargo. The National Transitional Council (NTC) had nominated Abdul Fattah Younis as chief of rebels, who was later assassinated in July 2011 leaving the position vacant. The same month, loyalist to Gaddafi launched a hand grenade inside Haftar’s house in Benghazi. Later Haftar moved in Zintan, western Libya. The Colonel gave an ultimatum of 24 hours to residents for leaving Sirte or they would be considered as prisoners of war. In November, 150 officiers designated Colonel Haftar as new military chief in al Bayda but neither NTC and the « revolutionaries » accepted him as a leader. A Haftar’s convoy clashed with Zintan brigade – loyal to Libyan National Army today – at a checkpoint after that one of his son was shot by Zintanis.
In 2012, the same month as the attacks against the US government facilities, he launched a plan to reform the army « due to inaction of General National Congress (GNC) and NTC » – by recruiting 20.000 militants and integrating « revolutionaries », former Gaddafi’s officers, collecting weapons… In June 2013, he modified his plan to replace GNC and create a restricted role for the government.
In a video, Khalifa Haftar said he intended to take control of the political institutions and called for the country’s government and parliament to be suspended. This attempted coup d’état failed, Ali Zeidan former prime minister denied any events in Libya and added that Haftar doesn’t belong to the Libyan army. In the same year of 2014, he launched « Karama’s operation » against extremist islamists militias / groups in Benghazi – Ansar al-Sharia, Libya Shield Forces, Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade and 17th February Brigade. Haftar said in an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat that he wanted to purge Libya of the Muslim Brotherhood. Regarding the presidential power in Libya, little time after the beginning of the operation in Benghazi, he said : « I do not desire power, however if I were called on to take up power by the people through the ballot box…« .
In March 2015, he was appointed Commander of the armed forces by the House of Representatif (HoR) and promoted General. A month earlier the government had asked Haftar and 129 retired officers to return active service. On September 20, Haftar Forces began « Operation Doom » against areas of Benghazi still held by the Islamic State and groups linked to Al Qaeda.
In September 2016, under « Swift Thunder operation » the so called Libyan National Army lead by General Haftar launched an offensive in Libya to retake the oil facilities of the « oil crescent » handed by Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG). Ibrahim Jadhran PFG’s leader described as a federalist was in tactical alliance with Haftar. Few days later, the LNA leader was appointed as « Field Marshall » by the HoR.
January 11, 2017, Marshall Haftar was on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off Tobruk, he unblock former contract – $2 billion dollars – signed under Gaddafi with Russia.
Today, Libya is divised between three governments, militias / armed groups wars, power / water cut, lack of liquidity and an important presence of terrorists groups. Marshall Haftar who was considered illegitimate by many until 2015 affirms now his presence as an incontournable actor of the Libyan crisis, the military takes a « leading » place for the international community. Supported officially, unofficially, directly and indirectly by many countries.
By Tom FNX.
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