On Monday, President Donald Trump spoke on the phone to the renegade Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, that is leading an offensive to seize the country’s capital, Tripoli, from its internationally recognized government. Al Jazeera reports that the move sparked anger amongst residents of the capital that perceive the call as a show of support from Trump for Haftar’s offensive.
According to a White House statement released Friday, the pair used the Monday call “to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts to achieve peace and stability in Libya.” During their talk, Trump “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.”
But according to Al Jazeera‘s Rosiland Jordan, who is stationed in Washington, D.C., the White House statement contradicts the United States’ Department of State.
“Earlier this week, the State Department put out a statement calling on Haftar to stand down, to halt this military offensive and the US has been working with the UN on trying to broker some sort of a peace accord in that country.”
She added that the apparent contradiction raises the question of whether Trump is going against U.S. foreign policy on a key global issue.
Al Jazeera‘s Mahmoud Abdelwahed reported from Tripoli on the anger that Trump’s call caused, and claims that thousands of people are protesting and “calling on the international community to stop the military aggression by Haftar forces.”
Trump spoke to Libya warlord on Monday. On Tuesday he upped the war https://t.co/vBNAt9v8zl— The Independent (@Independent) April 19, 2019
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched its attack on Tripoli on April 4 to cleanse the country’s western region of “remaining terrorist groups.” Although it’s a justified goal to some, analysts believe that the military campaign risks reigniting a civil war in the oil-rich country, which has been unstable since the murder of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The White House statement of Trump and Haftar’s call comes just days after both the U.S. and Russia said they would not support a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in Libya. While the U.S. didn’t provide a reason for their decision, Russia objected due to the British-drafted resolution that blamed Haftar for the recent surge in violence in Libya.
Haftar currently has the support of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, all of which believe that he offers hope of restoring stability in Libya. In addition, protesters in Tripoli accused France’s President Emmanuel Macron of supporting Haftar, although the French embassy in Libya claims that Paris opposes the attack on the city.