Heavy clashes battled south of Libya’s capital as the self-declared Libyan National Army is still trying to seize Tripoli. The United Nations-backed government resisting the offensive, and at least 220 have been killed.
As CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports – there’s anger and hope in Libya, as America shifts its stance on the conflict raging around Tripoli.
They are angry at the violence and they blame Libyan general Khalifa Haftar. Now, protesters in Tripoli, like Nour Mohamed, say America is showing support for the wrong side:
“The Libyan people are against Trump, and against Haftar. We want civilian rule, freedom, science and culture – we want to live as other people do.”
The White House now confirms in a statement, Trump called Haftar on Monday to discuss the general’s “ongoing counterterrorism efforts” and to recognize their “shared vision of Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”
If that lends him legitimacy – the acting U.S. Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, insists it is not a green light to push out the internationally recognized government. “A military solution is not what Libya needs. What we’ve said before, and what I do support is Field Marshal Haftar’s support in terms of his role in counterterrorism but where we need Field Marshall Haftar’s support is building democratic stability there in the region.”
Haftar won praise back in 2014 – and then U.S. military support – as he built a force that pushed out Islamist militias in the east.
Then early this year he moved south, before setting his sights on the capital. At first, Washington urged him to stop and respect the U.N. peace process. But then this week, along with Russia, the U.S. blocked a U.N. Security Council Resolution that would have called for a ceasefire.
In Benghazi, they’re thrilled. Haftar spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said, “the situation is completely changing on the ground. On Thursday, the international legitimacy was with Serraj, totally. By Friday, international legitimacy started shifting to the LNA – to the Libyan people.”
Still, the U.N. says weapons are flooding in from abroad on both sides. The battle for Tripoli looks set to intensify.