Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli

Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli
© Greg Nash

The White House said Friday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE spoke earlier this week with a Libyan general whose forces are fighting the U.S.-backed unity government in the country's capital of Tripoli.

In the call, which took place Monday, Trump hailed Gen. Khalifa Haftar for fighting terrorist groups and stressed a commitment to bringing peace to Libya.

“President Donald J. Trump spoke on April 15, 2019, with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya," the White House said in a statement Friday. "The President recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system."

ADVERTISEMENT

The news comes as the rebel strongman's forces wage an assault on the capital. Fighting in Tripoli has already killed over 205 people, according to Al Jazeera. The unity government, recognized by the United Nations, said it would seek an arrest warrant for the renegade general and six of his officers.

"It's the legal and humanitarian responsibility of the Security Council and the international community to hold this criminal responsible for his actions," Government of National Accord Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations said Thursday it could not support a resolution before the Security Council calling for a ceasefire, though the mission did not detail its reasons, according to reports.

The State Department, however, has condemned Haftar’s offensive.

“The United States is deeply concerned about fighting near Tripoli. We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital. Forces should return to status quo ante positions,” it said in a statement earlier this month.

The U.S. is also working with European allies to ease tensions between Haftar and the government in Tripoli.

The North African nation has been mired in chaos since the Arab Spring rocked the country in 2011. Then-leader Moammar Gadhafi used the military to crush anti-government demonstrations. Rebel groups eventually captured and killed Gadhafi later that year. Since then, the unity government has struggled to regain control of vast swaths of territory.

Anti-government sentiment runs particularly dep in the eastern part of Libya, the base for a rival regime that Haftar is allied with is based. Haftar has already defeated Islamist groups and secured oil fields in that part of the country, raising his stature among government opponents.

Though Haftar is not popular in the western part of Libya due to past connections with Gadhafi, he is said to have the backing of regional powers such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to the BBC.