The Double Agent: Haftar reconciles with Qaddafi
A year after Haftar settled in northern Virginia (he used Hiftar as his official name in the U.S.), he was sending out feelers to Qaddafi.
If Abdulgassem Khalifa Haftar’s post-Libyan life as a rebel in America is opaque and mysterious, it may be because it was so ineffective. His later relationship with Qaddafi was not. Evidence suggests that Haftar not only reconciled with his nemesis but was paid not to overthrow him — an ironic twist, given that in the 1980s the CIA paid Haftar to pretend to overthrow Qaddafi.
We know that Haftar was Qaddafi’s friend, but based on conversations with Qaddafi’s small inner circle, he may have exaggerated that claim. We know that the CIA took great advantage of Qaddafi’s brutal rebuke of his commander after Haftar’s utter defeat at Wadi Doum in 1987 and the Libyan leader’s refusal to repatriate him and his men from prison in Chad.
There are two or three scattered reports that Haftar continued his duplicity once he arrived in America as a refugee in 1991, allegedly maintaining an active rebel “army” and engaging with Western-based challengers to Qaddafi.
So why are there clear examples of Haftar reconciling with Qaddafi after his arrival in the U.S.?
A year after Haftar settled in northern Virginia (he used Hiftar as his official name in the U.S.), he was sending out feelers to Qaddafi. In response, the Libyan leader turned to his trusted cousin, Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, to reach out to Haftar.
A Qaddafi lookalike, al-Dam was 10 years younger than Qaddafi and, like Haftar, was born in Egypt to an Egyptian mother. Al-Dam’s father took in the young Qaddafi in Sirte and protected the future leader when he attended school in Sebha and afterward.
Al-Dam joined the Libyan military and advanced rapidly. He was educated in the U.K. at the Joint Services and Command Staff College, where classmates included the current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He also studied in Turkey and Pakistan.
Haftar and al-Dam were not strangers. Al-Dam served alongside Haftar in 1973 when the Yom Kippur War broke out. Their tank brigade arrived in the Sinai too late to be involved in combat — supposedly because the Egyptians neglected to tell Qaddafi of their plans for security reasons.
In 1978, responding to multiple assassination plots, Qaddafi began appointing members of his family and his tribe to senior government slots. Ahmed and his brother Sayyid Qadhaf al-Dam were tapped to run a program under the head of intel designed to eliminate coup plotters and dissidents.
Qaddafi also put Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam in charge of the Presidential Guard and gave him Haftar’s old post, administering the oil-rich port of Tobruk and managing relations with Egypt. Al-Dam oversaw Libya’s funding of rebel movements across Africa and even handled Qaddafi’s personal funds and investments.
In August 1992, al-Dam traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with Haftar at Qaddafi’s request. What was discussed is not known, but that meeting was followed by a series of strange events.
Three years later, Haftar moved into a house in Egypt near the Cairo airport that Qaddafi had purchased as a gesture of reconciliation with his former commander. Haftar, being Haftar and sensing an opportunity, demanded money for furniture and decorations. Qaddafi gave him 12 million Egyptian pounds.
He also awarded Haftar a lump-sum payment of $200,000 and an annual stipend of $100,000 for his service to Libya (other sources say the stipend was $200,000 per year). It is assumed the money was back pay and a tribute for a decade of estrangement.
Despite this seeming rapprochement, Haftar was still nominally involved in an anti-government expat group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which was created in Sudan in 1981 by Muhammad Yusuf al-Magariaf. Its goal of toppling Qaddafi and creating a constitutional democracy was always more theoretical than practical.
Although members made frequent and early use of the internet in English and Arabic to publish articles about abuse, corruption and plans, Qaddafi remained firmly in power.
Haftar supposedly ran the NFSL’s military arm, the Libyan National Army, but he also registered the Libyan Movement for Change and Reform in Fairfax, Va., in 1995.
The stated goals of the LMCR were promotion of civil liberties and human rights and “working towards a more democratic Libya.” (Oddly, records show that a group with LMCR’s Arabic name, Al-haraka Al-leebiya Lil-taghyieer Wal-Islaha, was registered in London, in 1994.)
The LMCR defines itself as follows: “The Libyan Movement for Change and Reform is a political organization dedicated to changing the existing illegitimate regime which has reduced our country to its present tragic state. The Movement rejects despotism and dictatorship, demands the return of constitutional rule, calls for popular participation in the nation’s social and economic reconstruction, and works for the establishment of a democratic society based upon the free will of the people and the rule of law. We want to see Libya regain its prior glory and dignity, to be a land that once again enjoys freedom, democracy, stability, and progress (17 Mar. 1997).”
Groups like the Libyan Constitutional Union, Libyan League for Human Rights, Libyan Tmazight Congress and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya were losing traction . . . and funding. At one point, the National Conference for the Libyan Opposition called for a “day of rage” against Gaddafi, but almost all online information has vanished or been scrubbed.
The groups shared a hopeful future for Libya and masked many of their private agendas and special interests. Did Haftar truly believe he would liberate Libya and create a new government?
In 1996 Qaddafi once again sent al-Dam to meet with Haftar and ask him to stop trying to overthrow the Libyan government. Yet in March of that year, Haftar was still promoting the Libyan National Army and the LMCR.
In the mid-1990s Khalifa Haftar was a man with a decent income, five sons and a daughter. He maintained his role as an exile, planning to depose Qaddafi, but the reality was quite different. Haftar did not know then that his old style of propaganda was about to be replaced by a new technology called the internet and the World Wide Web.
Qaddafi also didn’t recognize that beneath Libya’s tribal façade a disruptive new phenomenon was growing. In 1995 jihadis returning from fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan created the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya. By the following year they were trying to assassinate Gaddafi (the group did not reconcile with him until 2009).
By this time, Qaddafi was in his 50s. Eight years of the Reagan administration’s covert mental and military campaigns had worn him down. His growing paranoia made him distrust outsiders; he even set up an assassination team to take out dissidents, and he spent more time with his Rijal al-Khaimah, or Men of the Tent, discussing revolution, philosophy and social change. Qaddafi’s sons and associates from his pre-revolution days entertained him and comforted him as he withdrew.
In 2005 Qaddafi began working hard to change his anti-Western strategy, abandoning his angry old revolutionary ways. That same year he also made another remarkable show of reconciling with Haftar.
On March 18, the Libyan leader traveled to Egypt and paid a visit to the home in Cairo he had purchased for Haftar. But Haftar wasn’t there. Qaddafi asked Haftar’s two sons to give their father his salaams (greetings) and left a letter. He praised Haftar publicly, saying he was “like a brother.”
Haftar’s family explained to Qaddafi that their father betrayed him because the Libyan leader had abandoned him and his men in Chad. Later, in an audio recording, Qaddafi again praised Haftar.
Real estate records reveal that in 2007 Haftar and his family moved from their Falls Church, Va., apartment into a larger but still modest, five-bedroom, four-bath, 1,499-square-foot detached home at 410 Course Street in nearby Vienna. Nothing fancy, but with four American-born children, he needed the room.
Local records also reveal a new wife. On March 1, 2007, in Lunenburg County, Virginia, Haftar married a 38-year-old Moroccan woman named Khadija Ouaazzi, who had arrived in America in 2001. They were divorced almost exactly a year later, on April 8, 2008. Khadija Hiftar then vanished.
In 2014 The Washington Post collected voter records in Virginia that show Haftar voted in 2008 and 2009. Other than traffic violations and a few threats against the local police, the once rebellious Haftar kept out of sight in America.
Continues in part 7