By Camille Al-Taweel
The victory of Khalifa Haftar in the country’s second city of Benghazi this week raises question marks on the leader’s next destination and possible confrontations between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its rivals, whether in Darna, the stronghold of al-Qaeda or in Sirt, Bani Walid, and western Tripoli, where forces loyal to the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, are deployed.
After a three-year military campaign, Haftar and his forces took full control of Benghazi, from where the revolution against the regime of Gaddafi was launched in 2011.
Two days ago, Haftar’s LNA succeeded in entering the seafront district of Sabri, the last neighborhood under the extremists’ control.
“Haftar may soon move his forces towards the west in the direction of Sirt or Bani Walid,” Mary Fitzgerald, a researcher specializing in the country, told Asharq Al-Awsat, saying much damage was done to the social map of Benghazi.
At the same time, she said that Haftar would continue to fortify his presence in the east of the country.
However, “tension and infighting among the ranks of his camp could slow down his impulse,” Fitzgerald added.
Libyan analyst Ashour Shamis shares her view. “There is no one force capable to fully control the country,” he said.
Shamis warned that armed men who were trapped in Benghazi and had already withdrawn from the city, “could gather their forces and come back … maybe through bomb blasts.”
Looking at the Libyan spectrum, Haftar seems militarily in control of the east, except for the city of Darna, the stronghold of Islamists in Libya.
However, the distribution of armed forces in the west looks more complicated.
Shamis said al-Sarraj has a problem with his loyal forces which operate in the framework of “deals, meaning their allegiance is not 100 percent guaranteed.”
Camille Al-Taweel is a Lebanese journalist and columnist for al-Hayat. He holds a Master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and a Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Information at the Lebanese University.