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Si pensabas que todo estaba a toda madre en Libia, estas en un error.

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Rey Misterio
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Si pensabas que todo estaba a toda madre en Libia, estas en un error.

Mensaje por Rey Misterio el 23/7/2014, 2:49 pm

Kilometrico pero sustancioso, definitivamente lo que se espera de Janes.

Retired general launches war against Islamists in eastern Libya

IHS Jane's Terrorism & Insurgency Monitor
21 July 2014

An image released by Ansar al-Sharia's Twitter account on 16 June 2014 purporting to show an attack targeting forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Source: IHS Jane's/JTIC
Key Points
Forces led by retired general Khalifa Haftar launched a ground and air offensive targeting Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Sharia, in the Libyan city of Benghazi on 16 May.
Supported by several local militias and national military units, Haftar's aim of ending Islamist influence in the country has been met with varying degrees of support domestically and abroad.
With Haftar and Islamist militias pledging further violence in support of their respective positions, further polarisation of the political and security environments in the east of the country is inevitable.
Almost two months after its launch on 16 May, the offensive by retired general Khalifa Haftar's forces against Islamist militias in Benghazi and eastern Libya, as well as their suspected political backers, has attracted considerable popular support but achieved few tangible results. Haftar has claimed in media interviews to control 70-90% of Benghazi, Libya's second largest city and the focus of his operations so far.

In an 18 June interview with IHS Jane's at one of the three bases he moves between east of Benghazi, Haftar claimed to have "broken the backbone of our enemies". He maintained that secret service networks from the era of former Libyan leader Muammar Ghadaffi were being rekindled, and predicted that his forces would soon launch offensives in Derna, a city east of Benghazi that is home to several jihadist groups, and the capital Tripoli, where the elected congress he accuses of supporting Islamist militias is located.

Despite his claims of success, Haftar acknowledged that while fighting continues on Benghazi's outskirts, militias targeted by his forces have retained bases and checkpoints inside the city. In these locales, militiamen continue to skirmish - as they have sporadically since mid-2013 - with a local special forces unit known as Al-Saeqa, whose commander Wanis Bukhamada has declared support for Haftar's operation. Haftar himself has not yet entered Benghazi and his claims to control most of the city must therefore be treated with scepticism.

Haftar's history
Haftar, 71, is a member of the powerful Ferjan tribe, which has strongholds in Ajdabiya in eastern Libya and Sirte in central Libya. A former military commander who served under Ghadaffi, Haftar led troops during Libya's unsuccesful war with Chad in the 1980s, in which Libya took more casualties and lost territory to Chad. Captured by Chadian forces in 1987, he defected from the Ghadaffi government, joined the opposition National Salvation Front of Libya (NSFL) in 1988, and relocated to the United States in the early 1990s. He lived in Langley, Virginia, and according to his political opponents he collaborated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its attempts to weaken Ghadaffi, a charge that has been resurrected by Haftar's critics since he began his offensive in Benghazi.

Haftar returned to Libya in 2011 to join the uprising against Ghadaffi and almost immediately entered a power struggle with Abdel Fatteh Younes, a Ghadaffi confidante and former minister of the interior who was appointed head of the armed forces of the anti-government National Transitional Council (NTC) after his defection in the first weeks of the conflict. Since the overthrow of Ghadaffi in December 2011, Haftar had tried, with little success, to build a powerbase by reaching out to former members of the Ghadaffi-era security forces and tribal elders, particularly in the east.

In February 2014, Haftar appeared in full uniform in a video statement released to the media, in which he called for the suspension of the government and its replacement by a military council to "save the country". Ali Zidan, then prime minister, accused him of attempting a coup and called for his arrest. Haftar slipped away to eastern Libya, where he spent months trying to drum up support from disgruntled former army and police officers and militias linked either to powerful tribes or regional separatists. His residence in Benghazi was the target of several small-arms attacks during this period.

Haftar's subsequent re-emergence in May took the country by surprise. The loose alliance of army units and anti-Islamist militias that emerged from his canvassing in the east was united by the sense of a perceived common enemy - Islamist armed groups and their political allies in Tripoli. Dubbing the offensive Operation Karama ('dignity' in Arabic), Haftar launched air and ground assaults on Islamist militia bases in Benghazi, beginning on 16 May.

More than 70 people in total were killed in the initial weeks of fighting. The militias targeted included the February 17 Martyrs Brigade, which was the largest anti-government unit in eastern Libya during the 2011 uprising, but is now much smaller and has changed leadership several times, and Ansar al-Sharia, a more hardline group formed after the uprising, whose fighters were accused by the Libyan and US governments of involvement in the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi that claimed the lives of the ambassador and three of his compatriots. The US Department of State designated Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organisation in January 2014 - although it should be noted that Ansar al-Sharia is operationally distinct from groups of the same name based in Derna and in Tunisia, which were designated terrorist groups by the US at the same time.

The Libyan government's response to Operation Karama was to condemn it as illegal. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, who had declared a "war on terrorism" earlier in his premiership but taken few practical steps to implement it, said Haftar's move undermined efforts to tackle terrorism. The chief of staff of the Libyan Army, Major General Abdulsalam Jadallah al-Obeidi, also denounced Haftar. The government announced a no-fly zone over Benghazi to prevent Haftar's forces from using air power in the offensive, but this has proved impossible to implement as a tribal militia providing security at Benina airport has aligned itself with the general, allowing his forces free rein over the facility.

At a press conference in Libya's Benghazi on 19 May 2014, Wanis Bukhamada announced that his Saeqa special forces would support Khalifa Haftar's offensive against Islamist militias in the city. (PA)
At a press conference in Libya's Benghazi on 19 May 2014, Wanis Bukhamada announced that his Saeqa special forces would support Khalifa Haftar's offensive against Islamist militias in the city. (PA)
Tribal ties
In the first weeks of Haftar's operation, a range of factions and individuals rallied to his side. Several regular army units declared their support, most significantly Al-Saeqa in Benghazi. One of the key reasons for this was probably the spate of assassinations of Al-Saeqa and other security force personnel in Benghazi since late 2011, which have been widely blamed on Islamist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia. In interviews with Egyptian media, published on 22 May, Haftar claimed "around 70,000 soldiers have joined us, including the air force, the navy, the air defence force, and, of course, the army", but that number is a clear exaggeration. In the 18 June interview with IHS Jane's , Haftar declined to give the exact number of men under his direct command, but claimed that a majority of what remains of the Ghadaffi-era army was supporting him - the Libyan Army post-2011 is estimated to number around 35,000 personnel. "Up to now I can say that 90% of the army units [nationwide] are with us, and the rest are sympathising with us," he said, bristling over being described in media reports as a renegade general. He added, "We are not rebels because there is no state to rebel against. Our behaviour is disciplined, we are not a militia."

Haftar's forces in the east also include tribal-based militias and members of the Barqa Defence Forces, a militia linked to groups seeking autonomy for the eastern region. In western Libya, Haftar has gained support from the Qaqa and Sawaiq militias, both aligned with elements from the powerful mountain town of Zintan - although prominent Zintanis, including former minister of defence Osama al-Juwaili have criticised Haftar's offensive - and the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance, a political entity led by Mahmoud Jibril, who served as the de facto NTC prime minister during the 2011 uprising. The Qaqa and Sawaiq militias fall ostensibly under the Libyan Ministry of Defence; however, it should be noted that although most of the country's militias claim some form of official recognition, very often it means little in practice. Qaqa, for example, has attacked a number of state institutions, including the chief of staff's headquarters in Tripoli in early 2014.

The precise nature and strength of Qaqa and Sawaiq's support for Haftar is difficult to gauge. On 18 May, two days after Haftar's offensive began in Benghazi, Qaqa, which claims to have 18,000 fighters, attacked the General National Congress (GNC) building in Tripoli using anti-aircraft guns, mortars, and rockets. A military police commander later declared the GNC suspended on behalf of "the Libyan National Army", the name Haftar has given his forces. The commander said the GNC would be replaced by a committee that had been elected in February to draft the constitution. Despite their bluster, none of this transpired - the constitutional committee rejected Haftar's overtures outright - and the GNC continued its work. It will be replaced by a new parliament that was elected on 25 June, which will be permanently based in Benghazi from 1 August. In fact, Haftar's heavy focus on the GNC, along with his initial opposition to the June elections, which was later reversed, prompted many to wonder if his much-vaunted "war on terrorism" was merely a front for a deeper power play. Indeed, Haftar has shown political ambitions, telling journalists he would run for president if the people demanded it.

In an interview with IHS Jane's on 20 May, two Qaqa leaders, Jamal Habeel and Colonel Ali Naluti, said that they were "with Haftar" but indicated that this was more in terms of sympathising with his cause than following his direct orders. They also repeated Haftar's allegations that the GNC and specific government ministries had been infiltrated by elements close to Islamist militias.

After the Qaqa attack on the GNC, the Libya Central Shield - a militia force dominated by fighters from Misrata that is under the command of the chief of staff who answers to the GNC - was deployed in Tripoli to defend the elected body from attack. At the time of writing, these fighters remained in the capital as a counter to any possible moves by pro-Haftar militias.

In addition to military units and armed groups, Haftar's offensive was also endorsed by various politicians and public figures, including former prime minister Zidan, a fierce critic of the Muslim Brotherhood who was dismissed by the GNC in March, and Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi. Haftar also claimed to have a popular mandate after thousands demonstrated in Tripoli in late May in support of his operation. Some of the demonstrators told IHS Jane's that security issues had grown to such an extent that they were willing to back anyone prepared to address the problem. Others said that although they supported the idea of the operation, they had reservations about Haftar himself due to his chequered history, which is well-known in Libya.

Since the beginning of Haftar's offensive in Benghazi in mid-May, fighting in the city has erupted intermittently between his irregular forces and the Islamist militias, with the armed clashes largely confined to the southwest outskirts of Benghazi, particularly the districts of Hawari, Qwarsha, and Sidi Faraj. Ansar al-Sharia has manned a checkpoint at the city's western gate in Qwarsha for more than one year, and on 25 June IHS Jane's observed approximately five Ansar al-Sharia fighters manning the checkpoint, equipped with a number of armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and pick-up trucks mounted with heavy artillery, including anti-aircraft guns. The group has commandeered the offices of a Chinese construction company nearby and also uses local farms as rudimentary bases. It has also returned to providing security at Benghazi's Al-Jala hospital, which it had guarded at different times since 2012 at the request of staff, who had been plagued by a lack of security. Hospital staff told IHS Jane's that Ansar al-Sharia members, including some from the neighbouring area, were asked to guard the hospital after personnel from Benghazi's Joint Security Room - which is made up of army and police - who had been guarding the facility left in mid-June, following clashes elsewhere in the city.

Air support
Key to Haftar's strategy is his force's air superiority, and there has been relatively little sustained fighting on the ground inside Benghazi. One of his allies is Ezzedin Wakwak, a tribal militiaman widely considered by locals to be the real power at the city's airport, and Haftar's aerial commander is Saqr Jaroushi, the former head of the Libyan air force. In an 18 June interview with IHS Jane's , Jaroushi claimed Haftar's forces have 12 aircraft in total - four MiG 21 and four MiG 23 fighter jets and four Mi25 attack helicopters - all flown by Russian-trained members of the 3,000-strong Ghadaffi-era air force who have joined with Haftar in Operation Karama. Jaroushi said they were using four air bases: Benina in Benghazi and three others further east - Labraq, Matuba (near Derna), and Tobruk. He claimed that they "could go for a year at least in terms of ammunition we have to hand", although this could not be independently verified.

Several Benghazi residents, including some who are broadly supportive of Haftar's campaign, have criticised the use of air strikes in the city, particularly after a university building was damaged during the offensive. Haftar's forces - and their opponents - were also criticised by Amnesty International for their "reckless shelling" of residential areas. The organisation documented several incidents during which shelling had resulted in the death or injury of civilians and medical personnel and damaged residences, crops, and medical facilities. It also noted that hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes because of the fighting.

The eastern town of Marj, where Haftar lived for several years, is also crucial to his operation. Many of Haftar's forces come from the town and its environs, as do some of his staunchest political backers. Fighters wounded in Benghazi are ferried back to Marj for treatment, and one of Haftar's three bases is located outside the town.

External factors
Haftar told IHS Jane's that he estimates, with his current capabilities, that Operation Karama will take six months, although he did not specify what he might define as a successful outcome. "If we receive military supplies from friendly countries the time will be less," he said, suggesting that such help has perhaps not yet materialised, despite talk of external support, particularly from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In an interview with IHS Jane's in mid-May, an aide to Haftar contended they had received what he described as "quiet diplomatic support" from "regional players and some in the West", but nothing practical in terms of materiel.

Haftar told IHS Jane's that he had not asked Egypt to conduct air raids in Libya, but added that he would request this "without hesitation" if needed. In addition, he has pledged to hand over to Cairo Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members who fled to Libya after the military overthrow of then-president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Furthermore, Haftar claimed to have "indirect contacts" with the US. "I don't think the Americans will stay away from this fight against terrorism," he told IHS Jane's . "We are battling an enemy hated by the whole world." The US ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, subsequently stated in late May that although she cannot condemn Haftar for pursuing the same people wanted by the US - including Ansar al-Sharia - that does not mean she supports him. These remarks were interpreted in Libya as an implicit endorsement of his operation. Such suspicions were underlined several weeks later when US Special Forces launched a covert operation in Benghazi on 15 June, capturing alleged senior Ansar al-Sharia commander Ahmed Abu Khattala, whom the US government accused of involvement in the September 2012 diplomatic mission attack. Local media reports speculated on possible co-ordination between US forces and Haftar's forces in the operation, although this was denied by both parties.

However, Haftar has indicated that his targets are wider than Islamist militias in eastern Libya. In an interview with Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in May, he stated that "the main enemy is the Muslim Brotherhood", whose affiliated political party - the Justice and Construction Party - holds the second largest number of seats in the GNC. Referring to the Brotherhood as "this malignant disease that is seeking to spread throughout the bones of the Arab world", Haftar vowed to purge Libya of it. These remarks, and other similar sentiments expressed by Haftar to Libyan media, have unsettled Western diplomats, who are concerned that the country's democratic trajectory may be at risk. When IHS Jane's interviewed him, Haftar appeared to water down his previous statements, maintaining he was not in favour of outlawing the Brotherhood. "We are not a copy of Egypt, if it happens in Egypt it does not mean it should happen here." Nonetheless, the Brotherhood and other Islamists engaged in Libya's democratic process have denounced Haftar's manoeuvrings as an attempted coup.

After Ghadaffi's ousting, many of eastern Libya's Islamist-leaning revolutionary brigades splintered or were folded into new, often quasi-official, outfits. Several prominent figures lost influence, in some cases to individuals with a more rigid ideological outlook. The largest factions have since come under the ostensible control of the ministries of the interior and defence, but other more hardline groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, remain separate from state-affiliated security structures.

An image released by Ansar al-Sharia's Twitter account on 23 June 2014 purporting to show the aftermath of air strikes by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in the Libyan city of Benghazi. (IHS Jane's/JTIC)
An image released by Ansar al-Sharia's Twitter account on 23 June 2014 purporting to show the aftermath of air strikes by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in the Libyan city of Benghazi. (IHS Jane's/JTIC)
These latter groups contain within their orbit radical Islamists jailed under Ghadaffi and Libyans who joined Salafist-jihadist networks abroad, including in Afghanistan, Algeria, and Mali, and returned home following the uprising. They also include a number of individuals who have fought with the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant: ISIL) and other groups in Syria, and have started to trickle back to Libya. There, they have tapped into existing networks or, in some cases, started building their own, according to Libyan security officials interviewed by IHS Jane's .

Outlook
Libyans have been divided over how these groups should be tackled, particularly in relation to Ansar al-Sharia. It has transformed itself through charitable work and preaching into a broader social movement with a support base mediators estimate at more than 4,000 in Benghazi alone. Ansar al-Sharia's ranks contain men from across the socio-economic spectrum, among them doctors, teachers, and other professionals. There are families in eastern Libya that include supporters of Ansar al-Sharia and members of the local security forces that frequently clash with them. The dilemma faced by the Libyan authorities is in determining where Ansar al-Sharia's irreconcilable armed component ends and the wider movement begins. Some have advocated a "force-only" approach to it and similar factions, insisting they should be designated as terrorists, while others, who favour dialogue, argue that this will only drive such groups into the shadows and exacerbate the problem.

Haftar's actions brought this debate to a head. Ansar al-Sharia reacted fiercely, condemning his campaign as a "war on Islam" backed by the West, particularly the US, and posting alleged images of its arsenal, including man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), on social media. Its leader, Mohammed Zahawi, gave a fiery televised address warning Washington not to interfere or it would face worse than the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Somalia. He also threatened that foreign fighters would flock to Libya to battle Haftar just as they had in Syria. Zahawi's words, particularly the warning about foreign fighters, prompted a flood of criticism from across Libya's Islamist milieu, from Muslim Brotherhood figures to former leaders of now-defunct militant Islamist group the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and prominent clerics. Significantly, this was the first time such a wide range of Islamists had publicly denounced Ansar al-Sharia. Many had previously moaned about them privately in interviews with IHS Jane's , but felt to do so publicly would damage fragile dialogue efforts.

The attempts at dialogue have continued at a local level in Benghazi under the auspices of a local crisis committee formed after November 2013 fighting between Ansar al-Sharia and Al-Saeqa. Members of the committee told IHS Jane's that there appeared to be little appetite within Haftar's camp for a negotiated settlement. Indeed, Haftar has said as much in media interviews. "We see that confrontation is the solution. What is the discussion? They are armed. I do not think that talks will work with them," he said in a May interview with The Washington Post . Mabrouk Shennib, a Benghazi lawyer who heads the crisis committee, voiced fears that Haftar's approach would further deepen polarisation in Libya and tear at the social fabric of the east by pitting fighters from Marj and surrounding areas against Benghazi militiamen. "Violence begets violence," he said. "The only way out of this crisis is dialogue."

http://www.janes.com/article/41023/retired-general-launches-war-against-islamists-in-eastern-libya


    Fecha y hora actual: 21/8/2017, 4:47 pm