The Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William J Burns, has demanded that the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, should cooperate with the Government of National Unity in Tripoli headed by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh and enable it to operate in eastern Libya. This, said Burns, will preserve the principle of “the unity of the country’s executive institutions.”
According to informed sources who attended Burns’ meeting with Haftar in Benghazi a few days ago, the CIA head warned the general about harming the ports and oilfields. He also said that the US lays strong emphasis on the necessity of having stability in Libya’s oil sector so that exports are not affected.
Burns apparently told Haftar that a joint force is needed to protect and secure oil and water resources and the southern border. This would be made up of the LNA and the Libyan Army in western Libya
When Burns arrived in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last week he met with Dbeibeh and described his government as a “reliable partner” of the US. Sources quoted by Al Jazeera said that the Libyan leader asked Burns for the US to prioritise working towards “unifying the international position that rejects negative regional interferences in Libya.” This was a clear reference to the rejection of the presence of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries in the country.
Moreover, the head of the Government of National Unity asked Burns to consider Libya as a real strategic partner for the US at the political, security and economic levels. He requested the US to reopen its embassy in Tripoli, saying that the security situation is “appropriate” for this to happen. Dbeibeh said that fears about threats to embassies in the capital are unfounded.
Al Jazeera’s sources confirmed that Burns refused to have Haftar’s son, Saddam, in the Benghazi meeting. Washington rejects his growing role in Libyan affairs.
The CIA director’s meetings with Haftar and Dbeibeh coincided with other moves to bring the Libyan parties closer together. A few days ago, for example, the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Manfi, held talks with Haftar in Cairo as part of an initiative by the council to involve all parties in the political process. The intention is also to make fair and comprehensive financial arrangements and unify the military establishment to protect Libya’s borders, combat smuggling and illegal immigration, and create mechanisms for reconciliation and the return of migrants.
The Manfi-Haftar meeting took place after the Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh Issa, and the head of the High Council of State, Khaled Al-Mishri, also met in the Egyptian capital.
Haftar said on 24 December that, “The Supreme Command announces the last opportunity to draw up a road map and hold elections.” Observers regard this as a threat of a new military operation against Haftar’s opponents in Tripoli and the west of Libya.
Following the failure to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021, Libya has faced new political conflict between a government headed by Fathi Bashagha appointed by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, and Dbeibeh’s government in Tripoli. Dbeibeh insists that he will only hand over power to a government that arises from a newly-elected parliament.