Battles are raging in Tripoli between forces aligned with the UN-backed government and a renegade general named Khalifa Haftar. Haftar and his militias had controlled eastern parts of the country, including the city of Benghazi, but in recent weeks he has marched his troops westward, toward the capitol Tripoli, in an effort to oust the Libya’s internationally recognized government.
Several hundred people have been killed in this fighting. Thousands have been displaced, and the situation is now very much on the precipice of descending into a full blown civil war.
On the line with me to discuss what is happening in Libya and why we need to be paying attention to this escalating crisis is Mary Fitzgerald, a former journalist and researcher who has been studying Libya since 2011. In this conversation she breaks down the complex dynamics of this conflict in ways that I found very understandable.
No one knows which side the US is backing
We kick off discussing a rather unusual turn of events. On April 19th, I and every other reporter who subscribes to the White House email list, received a note in our inbox that was a White House summary of a phone call between Donald Trump and Khalifa Haftar. In the call, the President offered his support behind the renegade general. This statement seemed to reverse US policy on Libya, which is to support the UN-backed government. Subsequent reporting by Bloomberg news has confirmed that US National Security advisor John Bolton gave a “green light” for Haftar to launch his assault on Tripoli. This seemingly undermined the State Department’s position, which was to oppose the military offensive by Haftar.
If you have 20 minutes and want to understand this unfolding conflict in Libya, have a listen.