As the United States and its allies get deeper into the confrontation with Qaddafi in Libya, it’s worth stepping back to consider what is actually taking place—and why. We’ve been told very little about the rebels seeking to supplant the dictator. But one in particular deserves our attention. General Khalifa Hifter, the latest person to head the rebel forces. There’s been little effort to look at Hifter’s background. One notable exception was the work of the always-diligent McClatchy Newspapers, which briefly inquired about his background in late March. That report does not seem to have generated much additional digging by other news organizations. The new leader of Libya’s opposition military spent the past two decades in suburban Virginia but felt compelled — even in his late-60s — to return to the battlefield in his homeland, according to people who know him.
Khalifa Hifter was once a top military officer for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but after a disastrous military adventure in Chad in the late 1980s, Hifter switched to the anti-Gadhafi opposition. In the early 1990s, he moved to suburban Virginia, where he established a life but maintained ties to anti-Gadhafi groups. Late last week, Hifter was appointed to lead the rebel army, which has been in chaos for weeks. He is the third such leader in less than a month, and rebels interviewed in Libya openly voiced distrust for the most recent leader, Abdel Fatah Younes, who had been at Gadhafi’s side until just a month ago. At a news conference Thursday, the rebel’s military spokesman said Younes will stay as Hifter’s chief of staff, and added that the army — such as it is — would need “weeks” of training. According to Abdel Salam Badr of Richmond, Va., who said he has known Hifter all his life — including back in Libya — Hifter — whose name is sometimes spelled Haftar, Hefter or Huftur — was motivated by his intense anti-Gadhafi feelings.
“Libyans — every single one of them — they hate that guy so much they will do whatever it takes,” Badr said in an interview Saturday. “Khalifa has a personal grudge against Gadhafi… That was his purpose in life.” According to Badr and another friend in the U.S., a Georgia-based Libyan activist named Salem alHasi, Hifter left for Libya two weeks ago. alHasi, who said Hifter was once his superior in the opposition’s military wing, said he and Hifter talked in mid-February about the possibility that Gadhafi would use force on protesters. “He made the decision he had to go inside Libya,” alHasi said Saturday. “With his military experience, and with his strong relationship with officers on many levels of rank, he decided to go and see the possibility of participating in the military effort against Gadhafi.” He added that Hifter is very popular among members of the Libyan army, “and he is the most experienced person in the whole Libyan army.” He acted out of a sense of “national responsibility,” alHasi said.
“This responsibility no one can take care of but him,” alHasi said. “I know very well that the Libyan army especially in the eastern part is in desperate need of his presence.” Omar Elkeddi, a Libyan expatriate journalist based in Holland, said in an interview that the opposition forces are getting more organized than they were at the beginning up the uprising. Hifter, he said, is “very professional, very distinguished,” and commands great respect. Since coming to the United States in the early 1990s, Hifter lived in suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C. Badr said he was unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself, and that Hifter primarily focused on helping his large family. So a former Qaddafi general who switches sides is admitted to the United States, puts down roots in Virginia outside Washington, D.C. and then somehow supports his family in a manner that mystifies a fellow who has known Hifter his whole life. Hmm. The likelihood that Hifter was brought in to be some kind of asset is pretty high. Just as figures like Ahmed Chalabi were cultivated for a post-Saddam Iraq, Hifter may have played a similar role as American intelligence prepared for a chance in Libya.
We do need to ask to what extent the Libyan uprising is a proxy battle, with the United States far more involved that it would care to admit. Certainly, Qaddafi has been on the “to-remove” list for a very long time. But after something of a rapprochement, he again became a major irritant in recent years. As the New York Times reported, almost in an aside, In 2009, top aides to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi called together 15 executives from global energy companies operating in Libya’s oil fields and issued an extraordinary demand: Shell out the money for his country’s $1.5 billion bill for its role in the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks. If the companies did not comply, the Libyan officials warned, there would be “serious consequences” for their oil leases, according to a State Department summary of the meeting. …The episode and others like it, the officials said, reflect a Libyan culture rife with corruption, kickbacks, strong-arm tactics and political patronage since the United States reopened trade with Colonel Qaddafi’s government in 2004. As American and international oil companies, telecommunications firms and contractors moved into the Libyan market, they discovered that Colonel Qaddafi or his loyalists often sought to extract millions of dollars in “signing bonuses” and “consultancy contracts” — or insisted that the strongman’s sons get a piece of the action through shotgun partnerships.
by Mike Raddie 26 Aug 2011
State Sponsored Terrorism?
First, this conflict is far from over so we’re almost certain to see more causalities as western ground troops flood into the country at the request of the ITNC (Interim Transitional National Council – the Libyan opposition group representing the rebels fighting Moamer Gaddafi). The news from independent journalists and unreported by BBC and ITN, is that the rebels, comprised mainly of Erik Prince’s (founder of private military company Blackwater, recently renamed Xe) private army of mercenaries, known as Reflex Responses or R2, are already coming under sustained pressure from Gaddafi forces and armed citizens prepared to fight for their country. It’s unlikely that western military planners would wish for a quick victory since protracted civil war is especially profitable for arms manufacturers and dealers in the west and for their allies and conduits in Israel and the gulf states. In any case, there are some guarantees in terms of what we can expect. As in previous interventions where depleted uranium was extensively used, most notably Fallujah in Iraq, we can expect to see (within 12 months) a crisis in the midwifery profession as incidents of childhood birth defects and cancers soar.
We must thank the ‘Brylcreem Boys’ of Marham in Norfolk, UK for their precision guided, depleted uranium tipped missile strikes. On August 9th 2011, during the height of the riots in the UK, David Cameron ordered a military strike on a cluster of farmhouses and tents near the town of Zlitan, east of Tripoli. A total of 85 innocent civilians were killed including 33 children and 32 women. The BBC report fails to mention the murdered children. Instead it simply echos, without challenge, the false claims of NATO that “the target was a military one, with civilian deaths unlikely” Commenting on the recent attack on Zlitan, a NATO spokesperson said there is “no evidence so far that has reached us that could suggest there have been civilian casualties”. NATO planes involved in this raid were RAF Tornados which flew the 3,000 miles of this mission from RAF Marham in Norfolk supported by VC10 and TriStar aerial refuelling tankers attacking what they describe as a “staging post” in Zlitan. Such attacks will surely continue until Gaddafi is killed or captured.
Within 6 to 12 months, we’ll begin to see inflation rise steadily as the newly formed, private central bank creates money and loans it to the ITNC to rebuild Libya’s destroyed civilian infrastructure. According to Alex Newman writing in the New American, “The Gadhafi regime’s central bank – unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is owned by private shareholders – was among the few central banks in the world that was entirely state-owned. At the moment, it is unclear exactly who owns the rebel’s central bank or how it will be governed.”. What is clear is the Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund and related accounts, which the western mainstream media maintain is ‘Gaddafi’s money’ has been frozen or confiscated by financial terrorists. If history is anything to go by (especially the financial confiscation of sovereign wealth post Iran’s ‘revolution’), these funds will never be returned to the people of Libya.
WikiLeaks cables, independent analysts and reporters have all identified supporters of Islamist causes among the opposition to Col Gaddafi’s regime, particularly in the towns of Benghazi and Dernah. An al-Qaeda leader of Libyan origin, Abu Yahya al-Libi, released a statement backing the insurrection a week ago, while Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based, Muslim Brotherhood-linked theologian issued a fatwa authorising Col Gaddafi’s military entourage to assassinate him. But they also agree that the leading roles in the revolution are played by a similar cross-section of society as that in Egypt next door – liberals, nationalists, those with personal experience of regime brutality and Islamists who subscribe to democratic principles. The WikiLeaks cables, initially revealed by The Daily Telegraph and dating from 2008, identified Dernah in particular as a breeding ground for fighters in a number of causes, including Afghanistan and Iraq. “The unemployed, disfranchised young men of eastern Libya have nothing to lose and are therefore willing to sacrifice themselves for something greater than themselves by engaging in extremism in the name of religion,” the cables quoted a Dernah businessman as saying.
Col Gaddafi has pinpointed the rebels in Dernah as being led by an al-Qaeda cell that has declared the town an Islamic emirate. The regime also casts blame on hundreds of members of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group released since the group renounced violence two years ago. Although said by the regime to be affiliated to al-Qaeda, most LIFG members have focused only on promoting sharia law in Libya, rejecting a worldwide “jihad”. The man running Dernah’s defences, Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002, but says he does not support a Taliban-like state. The rebels’ political leadership there says it is secular. The same goes for the wider leadership, whose membership claims to espouse largely liberal ideals. In any future negotiations – should it come to dialogue or even victory – rebel spokesmen are likely to be politicians who were until recently senior figures in the regime itself. The head of the opposition National Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil was Col Gaddafi’s justice minister until he defected at the start of the uprising.
That may not be as bad as it sounds – he was a law professor appointed to improve Libya’s human rights record by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi when the colonel’s son was leading Libya’s westernisation drive, and had already clashed with longer-standing regime insiders. The military chief, though, is Abdul Fattah Younis al-Obeidi, a former leader of Col Gaddafi’s special forces who was his public security, or interior, minister until he went over to the rebels. He has described Col Gaddafi as “not completely sane”, and worked with the SAS during the now curtailed thaw in British-Libyan relations. But it is still ironic that the West is taking sides in a battle between the leader of a much hated regime and his former effective deputy.
The death of General Abdel Fattah Al-Younes, Commander in Chief of Rebel Forces was announced on July 28. Younes was Colonel Qaddafi’s former interior minister who defected to the rebels. Younes was also key leader of the Transitional Council based in Benghazi. His death has created a vacuum in the military command structure, which will inevitably contribute in the short-run to weakening the military capabilities of the insurgency. It will also have repercussions on the timing of NATO operations. Unconfirmed reports state that Younes died in the battlefield in fighting on the ground against the Libyan military. For several days there were rumors that Al-Younis was dead. These reports stated that he was fighting in the Western Mountains and he could have been killed in battle. Other reports state that he was killed by the Transitional Council. Even within rebel circles there are claims that Al-Younes was killed “because he was a traitor”. The official release of the Transitional Council states that General Al-Younes and two top military commanders aides were killed by gunmen.on Thursday July 28.
“Abdel Fattah Younes was killed after being summoned to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi to appear before a judicial inquiry, opposition leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil announced at a press conference late on Thursday night.”
Secret Negotiations with Tripoli?
Al-Younes may have been attempting to return to Tripoli. There have also been reports regarding secret negotiations between Transitional Council members and the Libyan government. A faction within the Transitional Council may have been searching for a negotiated solution with Tripoli.
Barely two weeks earlier, top level talks were held in Brussels (Wednesday, July 13) between a Transitional National Council delegation and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The delegation also met with the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body. Fogh Rasmussen confirmed that “NATO would continue its bombing campaign in Libya as long as Gadhafi’s forces threaten civilians”. “As long as that threat continues, we must continue to deal with it,” While in Brussels, rebel NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jabril categorically denied the holding of talks with Tripoli: “All this talk about negotiations taking place between the regime and the National Transitional Council are totally false claims,” The Associated Press: Rebels deny talks with Gadhafi, July 13, 2011)
Divisions within the Transitional Council and the Military
The death of Al-Younes has resulted in internal fighting within the Transitional Council. The leadership of Mustafa Abdel Jibril is being questioned, particularly by members of Al-Younes’ Obeide tribe. Jibril had been seeking a surge in NATO’s bombing campaign in support of “a military advance” on Tripoli by rebel forces. Following the death of General Younes and two top military commanders, rebel forces are in disarray. Factional divisions are developing within rebel forces.
The CIA Connection
There have also been accusations that Younes was assassinated by a rival faction of the insurgency headed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, who is known to be a CIA asset: General Hifter retired to suburban Virginia, where he has lived for the last 20 years in Vienna (a small town) which is five minutes from CIA headquarters in Langley. … Manipulations Africaines, a book published by Le Monde Diplomatique in 2001, traces Hifter’s CIA connection back to 1987, stating that he was then a colonel in Gaddafi’s army and was captured fighting in Chad against the U.S.-backed government of Hissène Habré. Hifter defected to the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), the main anti-Gaddafi group, which was CIA-backed. He organized his own militia, which stopped functioning once Habré was defeated by Idriss Déby (supported by France) in 1990. …. “The Hifter force, created and financed by the CIA in Chad, vanished into thin air with the help of the CIA shortly after the government was overthrown by Idriss Déby.” The book quotes a U.S. Congressional Research Service report dated December 19, 1996, to the effect that “the U.S. government was providing financial and military aid to the LNSF, and that a number of LNSF members were relocated to the United States.” (Asad Ismi The Middle East Revolution: The Empire Strikes Back: Libya Attacked by the US and NATO, Global Research, May 18, 2011). Commander Khalifa Hifter tends to support the Islamic faction of the rebellion which is integrated by members of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
Supporting the Libyan Jihad
Affiliated to Al Qaeda, the LIFG (Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya) was founded in Afghanistan with the support of the CIA by Veteran Libyan Mujahideens of the Soviet-Afghan war. From the outset in the early to mid-1990s, the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) performed the role of an “intelligence asset” on behalf of the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. Starting in 1995, the LIFG was actively involved in waging an Islamic Jihad directed against the secular Libyan regime, including a 1996 attempted assassination of Muamar Qadhafi. (See Michel Chossudovsky, “Our Man in Tripoli”: US-NATO Sponsored Islamic Terrorists Integrate Libya’s Pro-Democracy Opposition, The Jihadists, covertly supported by Western intelligence are now on the front lines of the insurgency: Mr al-Hasidi [A Veteran Mujahideen] insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader [Qadhafi forces]”. (Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links, Daily Telegraph, March 25, 2011, emphasis added). Abdul Hakim Al-Hasadi, is a leader of the LIFG who received military training in a guerrilla camp in Afghanistan. He is head of security of the opposition forces in one of the rebel held territories with some 1,000 men under his command. (Libyan rebels at pains to distance themselves from extremists – The Globe and Mail, March 12, 2011)
The US-NATO coalition is arming the Jihadists. Weapons are being channelled to the LIFG from Saudi Arabia, which historically, since the outset of the Soviet-Afghan war, has covertly supported Al Qaeda. The Saudis are now providing the rebels, in liaison with Washington and Brussels, with anti-tank rockets and ground-to-air missiles. (See Michel Chossudovsky, “Our Man in Tripoli”: US-NATO Sponsored Islamic Terrorists Integrate Libya’s Pro-Democracy Opposition, April 3, 2011)
The Kosovo Model
The assassination of General Younes, while creating divisions within the insurgency, tends to reinforce US-NATO control over the Islamist faction of the insurgency, which is supported covertly by the CIA and MI6. What is unfolding in Libya is the “Kosovo Model”. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was integrated by Islamic brigades affiliated to Al Qaeda, not to mention its links to organized crime. The KLA was supported covertly by the CIA, German intelligence (BND) and Britain’s MI6. Starting in 1997, the KLA was behind the political assassinations of civilian opposition forces within Kosovo, including members of the Democratic League of Kosovo headed by Ibrahim Rugova. It was then used as an instrument in NATO’s 1999 war against Yugoslavia. And in the wake of the 1999 war the KLA was spearheaded, with the support of the UN and the EU, into heading an independent “democratic” Kosovo “Mafia State”.
The “War on Terrorism” Supports “The War on Terrorism”
In a bitter irony, the US-NATO coalition against Libya is “on both sides” of their own “war on terrorism”. They say that they are “fighting terrorism”, when in fact they covertly supporting and financing terrorism. They are fighting with rather than against the terrorists. They are also on both sides of “The Big Lie”. They wage a holy war against “Islamic terrorism”, while also supporting Al Qaeda affiliated jihadist forces within the Libyan “opposition”.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in Tripoli and Michel Chossudovsky in Montreal contributed to this report. Michel Chossudovsky is Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)
On Saturday, McClatchy reported that Khalifa Hifter, a former Gaddafi military officer, was appointed to lead the rebel army supported by the United Nations, the United States and the Globalist Coalition. Hifter spent two decades living in suburban Virginia “where he established a life but maintained ties to anti-Gaddafi groups,” writes Chris Adams for the newspaper. A friend told the journalist he “was unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself, and that Hifter primarily focused on helping his large family.” As it turns out, Mr. Hifter is a CIA operative, which likely explains his lengthy stay in Virginia. In 1996, the Washington Post reported that a Col. Haftar (a variation on Hifter) had arrived in the United States and he was “reported to be the leader of a contra-style group based in the U.S. called the Libyan National Army,” the Wisdom Fund noted at the time.
“This group is supported by the U.S., and has been given training facilities in the U.S. It’s a good presumption that Col. Haftar’s group operates in Libya with the blessings of our government.” In 2001, Le Monde diplomatique published a book entitled Manipulations africaines stating that Hifter, then a colonel in Gaddafi’s army, was captured while fighting in Chad in a Libyan-backed rebellion against the US-supported government of Hissène Habré. “He defected to the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), the principal anti-Gaddafi group, which had the backing of the American CIA. He organized his own militia, which operated in Chad until Habré was overthrown by a French-supported rival, Idriss Déby, in 1990,” writes Patrick Martin.
For U.S. intelligence services, the man who led the rebel assault on Tripoli, and is now the de facto military governor of the capital, is an old acquaintance. The CIA had tracked down the accused jihadist, and eventually captured him in Malaysia in 2003. The agency is believed to have then transferred him, in total silence, to a “top secret” prison in Bangkok. At that time, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, identified under the name of Abu Abdallah al-Sadek, born May 1, 1966, was already known for his long history as a jihad operative. This career began in 1988 in Afghanistan, like many other Islamist activists. However if the CIA wanted him, it’s first because he was one of the founders, and even the “emir” of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a small highly radical organization, which prior to Sept. 11 had two secret training camps in Afghanistan. The CIA was extremely interested in one of them, Shahid Cheikh Abu Yahya, about 19 miles north of Kabul, where the LIFG welcomed volunteers who had links with Al Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden’s organization had many Libyans among its leading members, including Abu al-Laith al-Libi, one of Al-Qaeda’s military chiefs who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. In 2007, the LIFG was given the seal of approval by Ayman al Zawahiri, then Al-Qaeda’s number two, and current successor of Bin Laden at the helm of the network. The LIFG then called on Libyans to rebel against Gaddafi, the U.S. and the other “infidels” of the West.
After Afghanistan, Belhadj traveled to Pakistan and Iraq. In Iraq, where the Libyans are the second most numerous group of Islamist volunteers after the Saudis, he was said to be close to Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda’s chief in that country until his death in 2006. In Bangkok, in 2004, after having long been questioned and possibly tortured by the CIA, he was handed over to the Libyan secret services. From jail to uprising. In 2009, the Libyan regime, under the direction of Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s son and heir apparent, initiated an unexpected policy of reconciliation with the LIFG. The leaders of the group then published a 417-page document called “the corrective studies” (in French “les études correctrices”), in which they stated that holy war against Gaddafi was outlawed, since it was only allowed in Muslim countries that had been invaded (Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine). The document may have been a way to avoid further torture. Nevertheless, it eventually allowed Belhadj to get out of prison — and he didn’t keep his word for long. Indeed, he joined the rebel forces and took the lead of the movement in western Libya to lead them to victory in Tripoli.
Has Belhadj distanced himself from Al-Qaeda? It’s a thorny question when considering that the man has already perjured himself twice. It’s difficult not to see him involved in the recent murder of former Ministry of Interior Abdul Fatah Younis who had rejoined the rebels. According to a Libyan expert, the explanation is rather clear. “Younis used to lead the special forces and he conducted a merciless battle against the LIFG between 1990 and 1995 in eastern Libya.” It is thus no accident that former members of the LIFG now hold the most important military jobs: Belhadj in Tripoli, Ismail al-Salabi in Benghazi, Abdel Hakim al-Assadi in Derna. Among the members of the Libyan National Transitional Council, one can find Ali Salabi. In 2009, on behalf of Saif al-Islam, he was the one who handled negotiations on the release of LIFG prisoners in exchange for them renoucing armed operations. Events in Libya have come full circle indeed!