In the civil war in Libya, it seems, the winner is determined. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar announced the capture of troops under his control, one of the most important cities in the country - Benghazi. And it seems that not only Haftar, but also Moscow, who has been very active in maintaining contacts with the field marshal, will benefit from what is happening.
The commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar loudly announced his next and perhaps the most important victory. It is about establishing full control over Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, the center of the oil fields, an important seaport and military base. In the words of one of the Libyan rebels, "who controls Benghazi, he controls Libya."
"Your armed forces announce to you the release of Benghazi from terrorism, complete liberation and the victory of dignity," said Haftar, dressed in military uniform on television.
The victory was won by the military leader, who studied in the USSR and collaborated with the CIA
As previously noted by the VZGLYAD newspaper, Field Marshal Haftar, who studied in the USSR, in the West is considered a leader oriented toward Moscow and a possible recipient of arms supplies from Russia. At the beginning of the year the military commander significantly strengthened his position. At the same time, Western media reported that Russia is leaning towards the support of Haftar, who controls all fields in the oil-rich east of the country.
In 2016, Haftar visited Moscow twice, in June and November, held talks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
In January this year, the Libyan military commander was on board the heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov, who was crossing the Mediterranean. In March, Reuters sources "visited the visions" of Russian special forces on the border with Libya. The Pentagon does not hide its concern about the contacts of Libyan politicians and the military with Moscow.
On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that Haftar lived in the United States for about 20 years and worked with the CIA.
What's happening in Libya and Benghazi
Although six years have passed since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya continues to be plunged into chaos. Despite the fact that there is a UN recognized National Unity Government (PNE) headed by Faiz Sarraj, in fact his power does not go far beyond the capital - Tripoli.
In the city of Tobruk there is another center of power - the parliament of the country, which does not recognize the PNE. "The Libyan National Army" Haftar is formally loyal to the Tobruk parliament. The PNA has its own armed formations - various kinds of local "brigades".
At the same time, a significant part of the country is controlled by various Islamist and other armed groups, including those related to Igil * and Al-Qaeda. One of the most significant outposts of such groups was Benghazi. It was here in the 2011 year that unrest began that led to the overthrow of Gaddafi and the civil war.
However, in 2014, General Khalifa Haftar announced that his Libyan National Army had launched Operation Dignity to release Benghazi. The storming of the city of Haftar was called "an amendment to the path to revolution." Initially, he claimed that it would last for several weeks, but the fighting for the second largest city of Libya dragged on for three years.
Where did the figure of Haftar originate from?
The former general of the armed forces of Gaddafi, and now Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar returned to Libya from the US in 2011 after the coup and began to gather troops. He declared war on Islamists and terrorists in the country and promised that "Libya will become a cemetery of international terrorism".
During these six years, Haftar managed to bring the number of his LNA to about 60 thousand people and take control of a significant part (according to some estimates, about 80%) of the territory of Libya. Moreover, he managed to recapture from the armed groups such important objects as oil terminals and military airfields in the south of the country. In fact, it is in the hands of Haftar that most of the real power in the country is concentrated.
Russia is not profitable to lose the earned advantages
"Putting things in order in Benghazi is fundamentally important, because going into the attack forward, having such a hotbed of tension in the rear, it would be unreasonable. I think that this will provide much more reliable rear services and for the promotion to the west of the country, "Viatcheslav Matuzov, president of the Society for Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries, personally familiar with Haftar, told the newspaper. However, with this advance, Haftar's troops will inevitably face the forces of the government of national unity.
"If Haftar managed to gain control of Benghazi - this is an important step towards unification of Libya. On the other hand, this is definitely a step towards strengthening the position of Haftar, "former Venetian Ambassador to Libya, Director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Veniamin Popov told the newspaper VZGLYAD.
Not surprisingly, the US and the EU have already begun to show interest in the field marshal, so it is possible that Haftar's recognition as a legitimate political figure is not far off. The pledge is due to recent visits to the Libyan Tobruk of the heads of the foreign ministries of Britain and Germany Boris Johnson and Sigmar Gabriel.
Strengthening the position and role of Haftar in Libya suggests that Moscow knowingly actively maintained contacts with the field marshal, and also insisted on the need for agreements between him and Sarraj, Matusow said. "These circumstances now, in essence, give us a huge advantage in terms of solving the Libyan problem in the interests of Russia," the expert believes. Therefore, it is very important that the Russian Foreign Ministry realizes that the West is changing its priorities in Libya, and we should not lose the advantages that Russia got from contacts with Haftar, "Matusow summed up.