By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 16 October 2014:
According to Khalifa Hafter, Libya is awash . . .[restrict]with foreign fighters that must be purged from the nation.
Hafter, speaking to the Libya Herald before yesterday’s operation in Benghazi, said that foreign fighters from Sudan, Turkey, Algeria, Mali, Syria, Qatar and other unnamed Arab states have been entering Libya since shortly after the revolution. This, he said, posed a huge threat to establishing security in the country.
The security problem had been made worse by the fact that although NATO helped Libya during the revolution, it had left too early, he explained. They did not help Libya set up a new democracy with a solid foundation. They allowed the problems caused by Islamists to grow and turned a blind eye to it.
As a result, said Hafter, members of the Muslim Brotherhood were able to gain positions of power in the new government after the 2011 revolution. This gave them control over resources and over the borders. They used that power to bring in weapons and foreign fighters.
According to Hafter, the situation in Benghazi got out of hand as Islamists, supported by these foreign elements, committed atrocities, with the number of assassinations continuously increasing.
“The Islamists usurped the 2011 revolution,” he said.
Hafter said that he and a group of army colleagues decided they had to take the matter in hand and formed Operation Dignity as a result.
Fighting the militias in the east has been challenging, Hafter admitted. “They do not operate like a regular army. Instead they strike in small numbers and then pull back. Operation Dignity has had to change its strategies and methods as a result.”
More troubling, Hafter emphasised, had been the constant influx of new weapons and personnel from outside. Both sides have suffered huge losses, he said, “but Ansar Al-Sharia keeps receiving more fighters from outside Libya”. Hafter claimed they enter through Mitiga Airport in Tripoli and then make their way to Benghazi.
When asked about the presence of Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State in Libya, Hafter linked them to Ansar Al-Sharia, saying they are “two faces of the same coin”. Their goal was terrorism and to spread their dominion across borders, he insisted.
“These people – you cannot have dialogue with them,” he stated emphatically.
This was not just Libya’s problem, asserted Hafter, but the world’s. If Libya fell to these terrorists, it would spread to her neighbouring nations and then to Europe. He insisted that these groups were an international threat.
“It is not just our battle — it is the world’s battle,” Hafter declared.
For this reason, Hafter said, the international community must act. Operation Dignity welcomes foreign intervention, even air strikes, the general affirmed.
“Libya has such a huge number of foreign fighters. We do not want them here. It’s hard to get them out of the country,” Hafter said.
“Step by step we are trying to eliminate the problem. Now we have the House of Representatives, new Chief of Staff, and we are building up the army so that we can reach the next stage in combatting these elements.”
“We will remain fighting them until we eliminate them or get them out of our country,” Hafter declared. [/restrict]