US officials meet Haftar in bid to end offensive against Libyan government

Washington may be seeking a way out of the warlord's stalled Tripoli gambit

Senior U.S. officials met with rogue Libyan field marshal Khalifa Haftar on Sunday in an effort to halt his offensive against the Libyan Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, the State Department said.

The delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland and the National Security Council’s senior Middle East and North Africa official, Victoria Coates.

“Senior U.S. officials met with General Khalifa Haftar on November 24 to discuss steps to achieve a suspension of hostilities and a political resolution to the Libyan conflict,” the State Department said in a Monday press release.

Matthew Zais, a senior U.S. Department of Energy official, and Brigadier General Steven deMilliano, U.S. Africa Command’s top strategy and engagement official, were also present at the meeting, the location of which was not announced.

Libya has been mired in conflict since the 2011 uprising backed by NATO air strikes that toppled and killed long-time leader Moammar Qaddafi. Since then, a multitude of militias have vied for strategic corners of the oil-rich country.

Haftar, a former general under Qaddafi, consolidated power with military campaigns beginning in 2014 in the country’s east and later in Libya’s south, before launching an offensive in April against the U.N.-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli.

Haftar’s armies have been supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and reportedly France. The U.S. withdrew military personnel from Tripoli days after Haftar’s offensive began.

Haftar and the affiliated Tobruk-based government in the east currently control the majority of Libya’s oil fields and refineries, but have been blocked from selling it by the U.S. and U.N.

“The officials underscored the United States’ full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya and expressed serious concern over Russia’s exploitation of the conflict at the expense of the Libyan people,” the State Department said.

Russia has provided forces aligned with Haftar limited military support in the form of Wagner mercenaries, and has allegedly printed billions in Libyan currency to boost the field marshal’s side.

The meeting with American officials, according to the release, build on recent talks U.S. with Tripoli-based officials in hopes of building steps towards a ceasefire between the two sides.

“These include concrete efforts to address militias and extremist elements, and the distribution of resources so they benefit all Libyans. The United States urges the parties to seize this opportunity to build a secure and prosperous future for Libya,” the release said.

U.S. officials quietly met this fall with Aref Al-Nayed, a senior politician in Libya’s Haftar-aligned Tobruk-backed government who has announced his intention to run for the country’s presidency after – in his words – Haftar’s “liberation” of Tripoli is complete, Defense One reported last week.

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