In First Visit To Libya, US Ambassador Meets Only With Haftar While Ignoring Tripoli

This is hugely revealing of where Washington stands on the now nine year old Libya conflict, which has recently seen former CIA asset Gen. Khalifa Haftar attempt to force the country under his control by his months-long assault on the capital of Tripoli. 

US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland, who had set up the embassy outside the country in neighboring Tunisia, for the first time this week visited the war-torn country which was thrown into chaos by the 2011 US-NATO intervention against Gaddafi. 

Ambassador Norland met only with Gen. Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), in Benghazi and reportedly didn't even go to Tripoli

US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland met with Khalifa Hafter this week. Image via Libya Review.

On paper at least, Washington still officially supports the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli under Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. However, starting last April President Trump caught many in his own administration off guard when he unexpectedly thanked the renegade general for "securing Libya's oil resources" at a moment he attempted to wrest control of the country from the GNA in Tripoli.

Turkey and other backers of Tripoli will no doubt take note. Erdogan is the GNA and Serraj's main military backer, and on Wednesday vowed that “if international efforts do not lead to a solution, we will support the reconciliation government until it controls the whole country.” He further stressed that “the European Union has no authority to make a decision on Libya,” after the EU announced it would send warships to enforce a UN arms embargo on the country.

A US embassy statement claimed Norland met with Hafter as part of ongoing efforts to secure a ceasefire and ‘‘to reaffirm the importance of a negotiated settlement’’.

It said that the Ambassador ‘‘noted General Haftar’s stated commitment to a permanent ceasefire and reiterated the commitment of the Berlin participants to de-escalation, the arms embargo, and a political solution to the conflict’’.

But perhaps most telling is that Norland has yet to even set a date to meet with Prime Minister Serraj, only saying it would happen "as soon as security conditions permit".