By Fayez Serraj
Tripoli’s Government of National Accord needs help to stop Khalifa Haftar in his attempted takeover.
Since toppling Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has struggled to achieve peace but has made meaningful gains under the internationally recognized Government of National Accord. In partnership with the United Nations, the GNA had been working toward national elections. Now, instead of ushering in a new, democratic government, the GNA is fighting an aspiring military dictator—Khalifa Haftar—who is taking funding and arms from foreign actors pursuing narrow self-interest at Libya’s expense.
Before Mr. Haftar attacked Tripoli in April, the GNA was pursuing economic reforms and building on Libya’s increased oil production to create opportunities and prosperity.
For the last month the GNA has poured resources into defending Tripoli’s civilians from a man whose forces the International Criminal Court has accused of war crimes, including mutilation and torture.
Hundreds of Libyans have been killed. More than 40,000 have been displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands could flee for Europe.
Mr. Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army is neither entirely Libyan nor an army. Analysts say the LNA’s ranks include Chadians and Sudanese—though Mr. Haftar denies this.
He has saddled Libya with billions of dollars in debt to fund attacks against his own people.
His son, meanwhile, allegedly looted hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and silver from a branch of Libya’s Central Bank in the central district of Benghazi in 2017, according to the U.N. Security Council. This behavior received no public condemnation from his father.
There’s no doubt that Libya under Mr. Haftar would be far from free. He has said publicly that Libya isn’t “ready” for democracy and timed his Tripoli attack to derail the U.N.-sponsored National Congress that was to be the precursor to national elections.
Many of our U.N. allies have demanded a de-escalation of the conflict and an immediate cease-fire. Yet other countries are using Libya as a proxy battleground for geopolitical influence, making Mr. Haftar’s war possible by providing his forces with money, training, and military equipment.
Mr. Haftar’s campaign has potentially larger consequences. The violent chaos in my country will be exploited by ISIS and other terror groups, which the GNA, in close cooperation with the U.S., had been nearly eliminated in Libya.
But since April, the GNA has had to divert forces that were combating the remnants of ISIS to combat Haftar. And the fighting makes it impossible for normal civic life to function.
When children cannot attend school and men cannot work, the threat of radicalization increases. Mr. Haftar is known to have radical Salafists operating among his combatants.
To prevent a bloody civil war with global implications, Libya needs the U.S. to help stop other countries from meddling in our affairs.
I remain hopeful that President Trump will succeed where previous presidents have failed, and that he will use his power to create peace, stability, and security in our country and wider region.
The world has long looked to America as an example of what democracy can bring: liberty, peace and prosperity.
Libya is ready for democracy. Libyans won’t accept another Gadhafi-style military dictatorship.
Fayez Serraj is Libya’s prime minister and chairman of presidential council.