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General Khalifa Haftar

Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (sometimes spelled Hifter, Hefter or Huftur, Arabic: خليفة بالقاسم حفتر‎; born ca. 1943) is a senior military officer in Libya. In April 2011, he was reported as holding the rank of major general.[1][2] Although born in and primarily active in Libya, he spent nearly two decades in the United States and is a US citizen.[3]

Early life

Haftar was born in Benghazi circa 1943,[4] and is a member of the al-Farjani tribe.[5] He graduated from the Benghazi Military Academy and then went on to receive military training in the Soviet Union.[6]

Early years in the Gaddafi government

Haftar assisted Gaddafi in the overthrow of Libya's King Idris in 1969. Like other members of the Free Unionist Officers (the junta that toppled the monarchy), Haftar was a secularist and a Nasserist, or supporter of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser's policies.[6][7] He was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council which governed Libya in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. Some sources state he took part in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.[6] Haftar later became Gaddafi's military chief of staff.[4]

War with Chad

In 1986, he had attained the rank of colonel, and was then the chief officer in command of Gaddafi's military forces in Chad in the Chadian–Libyan conflict. During the war, in which the Libyan forces were either captured or driven back across the border, Haftar and 600-700 of his men were captured as prisoners of war, and incarcerated in 1987 after their defeat in the Battle of Maaten al-Sarra.[8] Shortly after this disastrous battle, Gaddafi disavowed Haftar and the other Libyan prisoners of war captured by Chad. One possible contributing factor to Gaddafi's repudiation of Haftar and of other captured prisoners of war may have been the fact that Gaddafi had earlier signed an agreement to withdraw all Libyan forces from Chad, and Haftar's operations inside of Chad had been in violation of this agreement.[9][10] Another possible reason given for Gaddafi's abandonment of Haftar was the potential that Haftar might return to Libya as a hero and thus pose a threat to Gaddafi's rule itself.[6] In any event, Gaddafi's repudiation clearly served to embitter Haftar towards Gaddafi.

Opposition to Gaddafi

After several years of incarceration and eventual release, and after an American CIA negotiated settlement around 1990, he and several of his former affiliates moved to the United States, where they were ostensibly trained by the CIA in Langley, Virginia.[10]

Role in the Libyan Civil War

In 2011, he returned to Libya to support the Libyan Civil War. In March, a military spokesperson announced that Haftar had been appointed commander of the military, but the National Transitional Council denied this.[11] By April, Abdul Fatah Younis held the role of commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Omar El-Hariri serving as Younis' Chief of Staff and Haftar took the third most senior position as the commander of ground forces with the rank of lieutenant general.[12][13] Younis was assassinated later that summer.[14]

Attempted overthrow of the government

In February of 2014 Haftar appeared in a televised announcement, announcing that the Libyan government had been suspended. His announcement was soon dismissed with great skepticism by the then acting Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, describing the coup as "ridiculous".[15] Three months later in May, in the 2014 Libyan Uprising Haftar re-emerged with a much stronger hand, directing a combined air and ground assault against the pro-Islamic militias of Benghazi, as well as a sustained heavy weapons attack against the Libyan parliament.[16] (Later in May, after having been ousted from the GNC by a pro-Islamist group, Ali Zeidan then endorsed Haftar's movement.[17])
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