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Pompeo warns Libyan warlord’s forces to halt advance on Tripoli

Bloomberg Singapore | Updated on April 08, 2019 Published on April 08, 2019

General Khalifa Haftar (file photo)   -  REUTERS

The Trump administration issued a stern warning to Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar to halt his forces advance on Tripoli, and urged all aides to continue with political negotiations.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday that the US was deeply concerned about the warlords threat to the internationally recognised capital. He said the military campaign was endangering civilians and undermining efforts to resolve the dispute peacefully.

“We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” Pompeo said. There is no military solution to the Libya conflict.

Haftar is moving his self-styled Libyan National Army west to Tripoli to fight what he says is terrorism, after solidifying control of the east and sweeping through the south in January. Clashes have continued on the outskirts of the capital, including air strikes, despite appeals by global powers to halt the offensive.

“A political solution is the only way to unify the country and provide a plan for security, stability and prosperity for all Libyans,” Pompeo said.

US involvement

The OPEC members internationally recognised government said it would counter-attack to clear Haftar’s forces, which could lead to some of the bloodiest battles since the 2011 civil war that ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi. As tensions grow increasingly inflamed, so does the risk of disruption to Libya’s oil production — fighting anywhere in the country, even if its far from major oil fields, can cause swings in output.

The US Africa Command is temporarily withdrawing troops from Libya in response to security conditions on the ground, the latest chapter in America’s fraught military involvement in the North African country since Gaddafi fell. Libya’s government said in February that joint Libyan and US forces had bombed a site linked to al-Qaeda militants in the south.

A 2016 US-backed campaign pushed local Islamic State groups from their stronghold of Sirte. But Libya needs more help from America to overcome its divisions and stop the militant organization from regrouping amid the current chaos, Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said last month.

ISIS troubles

Over the past year, Islamic State has claimed several attacks, including at the elections headquarters, the Foreign Ministry and the National Oil Corporations headquarters in Tripoli.

“It will be expensive for us as Libyans and expensive for the United States, which by its own laws is obliged to fight al-Qaeda and Daesh,” Bashagha said in March, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. The United States must pay more attention to the Libyan political file to make sure there is a political deal.

Published on April 08, 2019
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