The UN in Libya is negotiating directly with Egypt in order to de-escalate LNA hostilities, prompting questions of Khalifa Haftar’s whereabouts.
Rabat – UN leadership in Libya met with Egypt’s intelligence officials on Saturday to discuss a de-escalation of Libyan National Army (LNA) hostilities instead of meeting Khalifa Haftar. The development appears to be a remarkable admission that Haftar is no longer in control of the LNA.
Stephanie Williams, the acting special representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, visited Cairo to speak directly to Major General Abbas Kamel, director of Egyptian intelligence.
Kamel and Williams, the top diplomat of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), discussed a de-escalation of the Haftar-aligned LNA. The diplomatic discussions in Egypt garnered little attention in the press, but invoked serious questions concerning the whereabouts of Khalifa Haftar.
Missing in action
It is easy for the casual observer to think Khalifa Haftar is still in firm control of his forces.
“Haftar Breaks Truce to Remain Relevant…” Jordanian outlet Al Bawaba wrote on Friday. “Haftar deploys more mercenaries to Al-Jufra,” the Libya Observer on Saturday reported. “Haftar forces block entrance into key Sirte province…” the Daily Sabah reported on Monday, even after he was notably absent from the Cairo meeting.
A deeper look at the actual news behind the headlines paints a different story. News stories about the actions of LNA militias are still being attributed to Haftar, while he has not been seen in public for weeks.
Haftar was last photographed on August 19 during a meeting at the Libyan National Army headquarters. He spoke with Egyptian Major General Khaled Megawer, who passed on a “relevant message” from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The event in Tobruk, Libya appeared cordial, but there has been no report of Khalifa Haftar himself ever since.
There appears to be no evidence he ever left meeting with the Egyptian intelligence after receiving el-Sisi’s “relevant message.” The sudden and remarkable ceasefire established in Libya on August 21 was confirmed not by Haftar, but by his alternative parliament.
On April 27, Haftar had effectively diminished the role of his parliament in a televised speech. The head of the Haftar-aligned parliament Aguila Saleh Issa had been sidelined but clearly felt he now had the authority to confirm the ceasefire. Saleh Issa’s sudden executive decision likely followed instructions from Egypt.
Saleh Issa had called for Egyptian intervention in the Libyan conflict in weeks prior to the sudden ceasefire. Turkey had expressed a preference for Saleh Issa over Haftar in June, which might have made him the ideal consensus-candidate in Egypt’s eyes.
Many consider Saleh Issa a more diplomatic candidate. He headed a July 26 meeting in Morocco to discuss the Skhirat Agreement as a basis for new progress in Libya.
Without confirmation of Haftar’s whereabouts, much remains unclear about the leadership of the LNA. The success of the ceasefire is in doubt because of continued fighting by LNA militias. On September 1, an LNA suicide bomber attacked a GNA checkpoint amid a general ceasing of hostilities.
As Libyans hope for peace, the pertinent question appears to be, “where is Khalifa Haftar, and who is in control of the LNA?”