Skip to main content

'Libya's future cannot be left to one renegade general'

By Sara ElGaddari, Special to CNN
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libya's instability is indicative of an ineffective government, says Sara ElGaddari
  • General Khalifa Haftar and the Zintan militia are stepping into the power vacuum, she says
  • But ElGaddari says Haftar and rebel militias are directly contributing to Libya's instability
  • She says the international community cannot let Libya fail and must help its government

Editor's note: Sara ElGaddari is a Libyan-British national and doctoral researcher at the University of Hull. Sara has expertise in North African affairs and in particular, on diplomatic relations between Libya and European states. Follow @selgaddari on Twitter. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author's.

(CNN) -- While the Zintan militia leads the battle for control of Tripoli's airport, another set of militia and radicalized Islamist insurgents in the east are threatening a fragile Libya.

The increasingly unstable political and social climate in the country is indicative of a weak and ineffective government that is failing to answer internal security concerns as well as the basic aspirations of its citizens.

Sara ElGaddari
Sara ElGaddari

For these reasons primarily do the Zintan militia and renegade General Khalifa Haftar feel they have a mark to make in the security and political vacuum left by a corrupt and inept national government.

While politicians in the highest echelons continue to siphon the country's oil wealth, the armed militias in response are taking over oil terminals in the east, including Marsa al Hariga.

Haftar, a Libyan exile since 1987, returned to his home city of Benghazi from the United States, and was frequently seen in the city's old courthouse, the headquarters of the revolution in the east.

Along with the former NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Haftar directed and advised in the crucial months of the revolution. As a retired General, many Libyans are unsure of the longer-term motives and personal ambitions of a man who once attempted to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.

Murdered Libyan activist's family speaks
LIbya's political power struggle
Who is General Khalifa Haftar?
Violence shuts down Libyan parliament

It is no small irony that Haftar, like the rebel militias that are still fighting for control of strategic bases in the country, is directly contributing to the instability of the country and undermining what little authority the government possesses.

From Sirte to Tobruk, and down to the border with Chad, there is no effective government influence. While elders in Benghazi want to negotiate with the Islamist fundamentalists, Haftar will not. His imposed policy is for these insurgents to surrender or be killed.

Recently, a car bomb was detonated outside Haftar's house, killing and injuring many. Like the brutal murder of Salwa Bugaighis on June 25, 2014, it is a further sign of the dangerous pitch of instability that the country has reached. Ordinary Libyans are now owning and bringing guns into their homes. Friends in Libya tell me the feeling of insecurity has permeated every household and shows no signs of abating.

Meanwhile, the government is continuing to fail to live up to its promises and has not provided security or jobs to ordinary citizens. At the same time, the quest for a secular society also continues, albeit whilst people purchase guns for their households and politicians steal the country's revenues.

The United States, Britain and Europe cannot afford Libya to become a failed state like Somalia. The division of Libya into east and west is not a viable option and is not in the long-term interests of Libyans or wider regional security. This debate does however highlight the old argument that the majority of the country's oil revenues still continue to go to Tripoli and surrounding areas.

Libya can be pulled back from the brink, but, the West must not leave Libya to its own (current) inept devices.

The government and the military need continued specialist training, advice and resources to fight the Islamist insurgents and the disparate rebel militias across the country, and to face the new security threats coming from the south and the Middle East. This process has already begun, with the United States' capture of the leader of the attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi in September 2012, which killed Ambassador Stevens.

The international community also needs to put pressure on the Libyan government to weed out endemic corruption.

The Libyan leadership need to maintain democratic credibility, unlike the last prime ministerial run that necessitated the intervention of the Supreme Court to rule the appointment of Ahmed Mitig as Prime Minister as illegal, to order that a new election be held, this time with a full Parliament in session.

The struggle to tackle armed groups in Libya continues, and it simply cannot be left to one renegade general to remove Islamic insurgents and keep armed militia groups in check.

Read: It's unclear whether Libya has a new PM

Read: Benghazi suspected ordered held until trial

Read: Libyan government considers requesting international troops

The views expressed in this commentary are soley those of Sara ElGaddart.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT