Trump Endorses an Aspiring Libyan Strongman, Reversing Policy
US President Trump on Friday endorsed Khalifa Haftar, a renegade Libyan military leader who is challenging the legitimacy of the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli. One day after the US opposed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Libya, Trump called Haftar to discuss the situation in Libya. During the call, the US president recognized the general’s “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system,” a White House statement said.
Trump’s statements indicate a policy u-turn, since his administration had previously condemned Haftar’s military campaign to capture Tripoli. The timing of the endorsement was particularly surprising, since Haftar’s offensive stalled last week, making it clear that he would not deliver on his promise to bring stability to the country with a quick victory. Libya has not known stability since strongman Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011.
Over the weekend, witnesses reported that Hafta’s forces had lost ground in Tripoli, while his forces, the Libyan National Army (LNA), claimed to have gained territory.