President Donald Trump has bucked globalist consensus by praising Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who is currently leading an offensive against the United Nations-backed Islamist government based in Tripoli, Libya.
“The President recognized Field Marshal Haftar’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,” the White House announced in an official statement following a call between the two men on Friday.
The US also joined Russia in blocking a UN Security Council resolution put forward by the United Kingdom that blamed Haftar for the ongoing violence in Libya.
The new US stance came as a surprise to many, given the State Department had previously condemned Haftar’s offensive and expressed US support for the UN-led peace process. According to Newsmax, National Security Advisor John Bolton was pivotal in convincing Trump to shift policy, arguing that Haftar’s strong leadership style and opposition to political Islam made him a preferable partner to the UN-backed government.
Asked about the statement, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan endorsed the President’s remarks, describing the Pentagon and the White House as “well-aligned on Libya”.
“What I do support is Field Marshal Haftar’s support in terms of his role in counterterrorism,” Shanahan said. “But where we need Field Marshal Haftar’s support is in building democratic stability there in the region.”
Haftar, a strident nationalist, previously served as a close military aide to Libyan Brotherly Leader Muammar Gaddafi, before defecting to the United States. He returned to Libya in 2011 and quickly raised an army to challenge Muslim Brotherhood militias who had seized territory following Gaddafi’s fall. Some of these Brotherhood supporters later joined UN peace talks and formed a transitional government with progressive elements in Libya. According to Haftar, this UN-backed government has “received reinforcements” from terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Libya’s five year long Civil War has divided America’s regional allies. Haftar boasts the backing of France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while the UN government is supported by the United Kingdom, Italy, Qatar and Turkey.