America’s admirably frank ambassador to Libya Deb Jones answered a lot of questions at the Stimson Center this afternoon about Libya, where an American citizen militia leader, Khalifa Hiftar, has been whacking extreme Islamist militias he holds responsible for political violence in Benghazi and Tripoli. This comes on top of more than a year of struggle in the country’s parliament between Islamists and secularists, a semi-abortive election of a constitution-drafting committee, expiration of the parliament’s mandate, resignation of one prime minister and failure to confirm a new one…. The US military calls this a goat rope.
Deb though was undaunted. She refused to criticize Hiftar for his attack on extremists, among whom the United States counts many of its enemies in Libya. The Syrian war and chaos in Egypt are sources of trouble-makers in Libya (as presumably it is for them). She noted (but did not endorse) that Hiftar wants the parliament to step aside and the constitution drafting committee to take over. She hopes he will contain his political ambitions and satisfy himself with taking out the bad apples.
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