US Demands Hafter Forces Stop Trying to Capture Libyan Capital

State Dept accuses Russia of exploiting Libya's conflict

In what marks a major shift in US policy in Libya, the US State Department issued a statement late Thursday demanding that Gen. Khalifa Hafter and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) stop trying to conquer the capital city of Tripoli.

The US had initially opposed the LNA invasion of Tripoli in April, but following a talking-to from Saudi Arabia and other nations seen as pro-Hafter, President Trump endorsed Hafter and suggested he’s going to play a big role in Libya in the future. This remained the US position up until now.

The change seems to be a function of recent news about Russia backing Hafter, with the State Department accusing Russia of “exploiting the conflict against the will of the Libyan people.”

A former general in the Gadhafi-era military, Hafter later was a CIA asset and participated in several failed coups d’etat. His force has substantial territory in eastern Libya, but has struggled to move deep into Tripoli.

It’s not clear if this means the US is returning to supporting the UN-backed unity government, or simply taking an anti-Russia stance. Overt efforts to oppose Hafter are likely to face a backlash from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other nations heavily invested in the idea of a military ruler in Libya.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.