As the US war in Libya moves into its third week, officials and analysts are seeing a lot of problems with their plans, but perhaps the biggest problem is one of their own creation, the Libyan Army and its leader, long-time CIA asset Gen. Khalifa Hifter.
Hifter was a general of Moammar Gadhafi until 1987, when he was captured by Chad. The next year, he became a US proxy for an anti-Gadhafi insurgency, and after that collapsed, moved to Virginia, with occasional trips back to Libya for other failed US-backed plots.
When NATO imposed regime change in 2011, Gen. Hifter was quick to make his grand return, and has been trying to consolidate his power ever since. He announced a coup in 2014, which didn’t amount to much, and is now at the head of the army loyal to the UN-backed Tobruk government.
Which is only just now becoming a problem for a US, which launched the war nominally to unite the country under the UN-backed “unity government,” a wholly different faction. Though so far the US is focused on bombing ISIS forces in Sirte, the long-run ambition of uniting Libya is going to eventually put the US in direct conflict with every other faction in the country, and that includes Hifter’s substantial forces. US officials are already referring to him as a “spoiler” who is getting in the way of their ambitions.