Having repeatedly launched attempted coups d’etat over the past couple of years, General Khalifa Hifter was today appointed as the nation’s army chief. He had previously run his own private army, and after that was appointed a general in Libya’s own fledgling army.
Gen. Hifter had been the Libyan military chief of staff in the 1980s under Moammar Gadhafi, and after a falling out with Gadhafi in 1987 he became the head of a CIA-backed rebel force. After that force was scrapped, he lived for decades in Virginia, not far from CIA headquarters.
During the 2011 Arab Spring, Hifter returned to Libya, claiming to be doing so under the backing of the CIA. Since then, he’s run his private army, attacking various Islamist factions in the country, and at times threatening to oust the Libyan parliament to “save democracy.”
Since mid-2014, Hifter has been backed by the Egyptian military junta, which is providing him arms and air support for his offensives. There have also been rallies along the Egypt-Libya border calling for Hifter to become the ruler of a new “military council” to replace parliament.
Gen. Hifter’s access to foreign aid has made him an essential ally for what remains of Libya’s struggling parliament, which holds only a small portion of the country. Yet he also poses a severe risk to parliament, having tried to depose it more than once, and giving him official control over the army, limited though it may be, seems to be tempting fate.