Egypt's Sisi moves to bolster support for Libyan militia-leader

Egypt's Sisi moves to bolster support for Libyan militia-leader
Egypt's President Sisi has begun international political manoeuvres to counter a "miscalculated escalation" against his controversial man in Libya, General Khalifa Haftar, according to an Egyptian diplomat.
2 min read
12 May, 2016
Haftar returned after more than 20 years in exile to join the 2011 uprising [Getty]

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is looking for international support to bolster controversial Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, after Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord [GNA] announced the creation of a new military force.

Sisi has reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin to back the self-proclaimed commander-in-chief as the rightful head of Libya's military, an Egyptian diplomat has said.

The GNA announced on Tuesday it was launching the Tripoli-based "Presidential Guard" to protect government buildings, border posts, vital installations and VIPs, in its first move to reorganise the military in a country mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

"Sisi has started international political manoeuvres to back Haftar, soon after the announcement of the Presidential Guard by the GNA," the diplomat told The New Arab.

"Sisi has been angered by prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj's timing of the decision, which will only deepen the rift between him and Haftar just two days after he called for a political solution to their differences without resorting to a military confrontation," the source said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The source said that Sisi urged Putin during a phone call this week to put pressure on UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, and the United States, to lift the arms embargo on Haftar's troops and to back the military commander as the "legitimate representative of the Libyan National Army".

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He added that Cairo thinks the creation of the new military force is "a miscalculated escalation against Haftar", who has an "essential role" in the country's future government and military.

Haftar controls the "Libyan Arab armed forces" which includes former regular soldiers and disparate armed factions in the east of the country.

Egypt has long promoted Haftar as the "military strongman" capable of containing Libya's complex tribal conflicts and overpowering the Islamist General National Conference [GNC] in control of the west.

The GNC is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Libyan party and has close ties to Turkey and Qatar, both regional rivals to the Sisi government.

The Islamist-backed administration in Tripoli has demanded that Haftar and his forces - who remain loyal to a parallel government in the east - have no part in Libya's political future.

The UN envoy has previously called for the formation of a united Libyan army that would include Haftar.

"He must be part of a solution," said Kobler.

The general returned to Libya after more than 20 years in exile in the US to join the 2011 uprising, and has since vowed to "crush" Islamists.