Haftar welcomes French security companies and Iranian-made drones

By on November 15, 2017

While the UN envoy for Libya Ghassan Salamé is working hard to amend the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) with the overall aim of preserving Libya as a united country, foreign interventions often keep spoiling such efforts, as is the case of France.

Paris stepped up its support to Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) following the promotion of Jean-Yves Le Drian – the man behind France’s new muscular approach in Africa and the Middle East – from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. President Macron’s choice to keep France’s security alignment with the main sponsors of Haftar – Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Russia – while playing lip service to Paris’ commitment to LPA and the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj, is proving detrimental to any solution to the Libyan quagmire. Paris is still deploying advisers, clandestine operatives, and special forces to eastern Libya while offering little to the GNA. The French military keeps a very good working relationship with the General: as French ambassador in Tripoli Brigitte Curmi condemned the LNA aerial bombing of Derna which resulted in the deaths of 15 people on October 30th, the very next day a French army C-130 cargo plane belonging to the 2/61 Franche-Comte transport squadron took off for Benghazi. The French government security drive in Cyrenaica is also instrumental to make the region a privileged destination for French investments, starting with a flurry of activities for security companies escorting diplomatic and business missions to the city of Benghazi and Tobruk (like SMS Seccurity Consultancy). Moreover, as Benghazi mayor Abdulrahman Elabbar plans to launch major reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars in the city, business missions to the Cyrenaica regional capital are now very much back on the agenda at the Franco-Libyan Chamber of Commerce (CCFL) and export promotion body Business France. French international cooperation agency Expertise France is also planning to send a delegation to Beghazi.

If Macron and Le Drian are supporting Haftar so openly just to gain an economic stronghold in Libya – following the same calculation made by Sarkozy when launching the military campaign against Gaddafi – any reward might prove to be extremely expensive. By betting on the General and helping turning him from a rogue warlord into a legitimate political actor, France is proving essential in pursuing his plans of uniting Libya by force, spoiling all efforts made by the UN and several Western governments to draft a better and more inclusive political deal to put an end to the civil war. France should bear in mind that Haftar is no saviour for Libya, nor a leader that could be easily bent to the needs of a Western power. The use of Iranian-made Mohajer-2 drones by the LNA and the General’s increasing reliance on Madkhali Salafists – who believe in unquestioned obedience to authority and object to free elections and democracy – show how far Haftar could go to purse his quest for power. Blessing Haftar might provide France with the illusion of short-sighted gains: but in the long run, such reckless support might backfire against Paris and those European countries more exposed to the Libyan crisis.

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