The mysterious way in which the powerful Libyan General Khalifa Haftar disappeared makes us believe that removing him from the scene, either by means of sudden illness, or dismissing him and cutting off his funding and support, specifically by Egypt and the UAE, would help greatly to finding immediate solutions to the Libyan crisis.
Over the past four years, Haftar has done nothing else in Libya except drown it in more conflict, division and sectarianism. Since he seized power and completely took over Benghazi, he exercised tyranny and authoritarianism. At times, he used the excuse of fighting the Muslim Brotherhood and the spread of Islamists, and at others, he claimed to fight Daesh, despite not doing anything significant in this regard. He did not achieve anything other than to unleash some of his officials and give them free reign to torture anyone opposed to his politics.
Now his disappearance, and even rumours of his death in France, where he was receiving treatment for a sudden illness or brain haemorrhage, has revealed to everyone the magnitude of the vacuum he was filling. It also reveals that the army he claimed was strong and tough was no more than an uncoordinated group of militias, and that "Operation Karama" (dignity), which he used to tighten his grip on power was just an empty slogan.
It seems that the Algerian impression of Khalifa Haftar from the beginning was right. At the time when Egypt and the United States bet on him, Algeria, the country which the strong general openly talked about his dislike towards in an interview with an Egyptian magazine, said that foreign intervention would only further complicate matter. Algeria also said it could not take the side of one party over another party which has international legitimacy and cannot be eliminated from the political equation with the stroke of a pen.
Then why was there such commitment to Haftar? The man who began his life as an officer in the artillery corps and contributed to the military coup against the monarchy that brought Muammar Gaddafi to power, and who also played a heroic role in the October 1973 War against the Israeli occupation is not the same Haftar who was embraced by the American intelligence after his defeat in Chad and after being abandoned by Gaddafi. The US took him in, backed him, and put him in a fancy villa for two decades. It also supplied him with money and weapons in order to stage a coup against his country, but he failed in that several times, before returning and taking advantage of the Arab Spring revolutions to demand his right to power under the National Front for the Salvation of Libya.
The American Haftar also tried to ally with the Russians and turn on the French. We must not rule out the possibility that his opening of more than one channel at the same time and dealing with several intelligence parties was the reason behind his sudden brain haemorrhage. This could be a means to get rid of him. In the event that this occurs, I do not know whether the Presidential Council of Libya and Fayez Al-Sarraj cold fill the vacuum and govern the country in order to unite Libya, or if it will help Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to be the alternative to Khalifa Haftar and the production of a new crisis.
This article first appeared in Arabic on 18 April 2018 in Arabi21
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.