Profile: Khalifa Haftar

The Libyan commander is being treated in Paris.

Libya''s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends General Security conference, in Benghazi
Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017 [Photo/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]

Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar is being treated in Paris after feeling unwell during a foreign tour and is expected to return to Libya within days, a spokesman said.

French media reported that Haftar is receiving treatment at Val-de-Grace, a well-known military hospital near Paris.

This is what we know about him:

Who is Khalifa Haftar? 

  • Born in the Libyan city of Ajdabiya in 1943, Haftar joined Benghazi’s military academy in 1961. At the age of 26, he took part in Muammar Gaddafi’s coup d’etat on King Idris in 1969.

  • In 1980, Gaddafi promoted Haftar to colonel and sent him to fight in Chad. Haftar was captured by the Chadians in 1987.

  • Upon release, Haftar defected from the Libyan army. Backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he formed the military wing for he National Front for the Salvation of Libya (LFD) to overthrow Gaddafi.

  • Haftar lived for a while in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from which he travelled to the US. 

Rise to power 

  • In the US, Haftar settled in northern Virginia, close to the CIA’s headquartes in Langley.

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    He returned to Libya in 2011 after Gaddafi’s death. In February 2014,he called in a televised statement on Libyans to overthrow the elected parliament and the General National Congress (GNC).

  • Backed by UAE and Egypt, Haftar launched a military campaign against what he called “terrorists” in Benghazi and Tripoli.

  • On June 4, 2014, Haftar survived an assassination attempt and disappeared from sight. 

  • In 2016, Haftar visited Russia who agreed to supply him with weapons and military equipment to fight ISIL’s branch in Libya.

  • Since 2015, Haftar has been visiting the UAE and Egypt, and in 2017 Emmanuel Macron hosted him in Paris alongside GNA head Fayez Seraj.

Libyan rivals

  • Haftar rejected the United Nations-backed transitional Government of National Accord (GNA) set up in Tripoli in 2016, dismissing it as beholden to militias in the capital.
  • Rivalries have also surfaced between Haftar’s armed units, local youths, and Salafist brigades.

  • Rivals accuse Haftar of surrounding himself with relatives, including two of his sons, Saddam and Khaled, who were given military ranks and a brigade to command.

  • Several of Haftar’s allies have defected, including a former spokesman and the GNA’s defence minister.
  • Some are accused of supporting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the late leader’s most prominent son who is seen as a potential rival for Haftar.

Source: Al Jazeera