The Libyan military track consensus is moving step by step towards détente and implementation of the provisions agreed upon in the cease-fire agreement signed in 2020, with the continuation of a state of complete agreement between its parties, especially the chiefs of staff in Tripoli and Benghazi, Mohamed al-Haddad and Abdel Razek al-Nadouri.
In a new positive development on this track, the United States, represented by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) Commander, General Michael Langley, arranged for a meeting between the two parties in Rome, which led to an agreement to form the first joint force of the two parties to secure the borders, which enhances the chances of unifying the military institution in the next stage.
On the other hand, the political track is proceeding in a completely opposite direction to its military counterpart, with ambiguity continuing regarding the future of the general elections and their disputed laws, where the complexity of the situation has been made even worse when the Head of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli, Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, renewed his refusal to hand over power until holding a referendum on a permanent constitution for the country
Meetings in Rome
The Chief of Staff of the forces affiliated with GNU revealed the details of Rome’s meeting between its Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Muhammad Al-Haddad, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Abdel Razek Al-Nadouri, with the AFRICOM Commander, General Michael Langley.
Al-Haddad and Al-Nadouri stressed, according to the statement, “moving forward to unify the Libyan military institution and forming a joint force as a first step to protect the borders, adopt a national project to absorb young people and integrate them into state institutions, and preserve the unity of Libyan soil, national sovereignty, and the sanctity of Libyan blood.”
For his part, the AFRICOM Commander affirmed, “Standing with the Libyan people in their calls for peace, national unity and full sovereignty, to achieve a secure future characterized by economic prosperity and regional stability.”
Langley was not the only foreign military figure with whom Al-Haddad and Al-Nadori met in Rome, on the sidelines of the annual African Chiefs of Defense Conference, held in Rome from Feb. 27 – March 2, 2023.
The conference discussed a number of topics aimed at achieving security and stability, as well as methods and means of protecting resources, preparing for crises and the mechanism for responding to them, as well as prospects for using and benefiting from modern technology.
On the sidelines of the conference, Haddad and Nadouri held separate bilateral meetings with the Italian Chief of Defense, Giuseppe Dragoni, and the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Osama Askar.
The relationship between the two generals, Al-Haddad and Al-Nadouri, has witnessed a remarkable improvement in the last two years, which was clearly reflected in the negotiations on the military track, as they held many meetings since 2021 in Cairo, Tunis, and Tripoli, and participated together in previous meetings of the Libyan 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC) in the three capitals.
The United States, through its embassy in Libya, praised the remarkable progress achieved by the two parties to the military dialogue in their negotiations in the recent period.
The US embassy said, in a statement, ” We are pleased to see the joint Libyan military delegation of General Haddad and General Nadhuri attend the African Chiefs of Defense Conference in Rome. The U.S. commends their commitment to reunify the Libyan military. We support establishment of a joint unit as a first step.”
In contrast to the military track, the US embassy in Libya had previously criticized the successive failure in the negotiations of the Libyan political parties, especially the House of Representatives (HoR) and the High Council of State (HCS), and last year explicitly called on these parties to follow the example of their counterparts in the military track, who are making new progress in every meeting that brings them together.
Last week, Washington supported the proposal of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, for a mechanism that enables elections, considering that it “is galvanizing the Libyan body politic and will build on progress made between the HoR and HSC on the legal basis for elections.”
This call came from Washington after the HoR and HCS rejected the proposal of the international envoy to Libya altogether, after they considered it “an attempt to expropriate the political process from the Libyan institutions authorized to supervise it.”
The meetings of the Libyan military leaders are an important step, and confirm that the military institution has no objection to any step towards building and peace, according to Youssef Al-Farsi, professor of national security at Libyan universities.
Al-Farsi added, “The two sides have a desire to unify the military institution and fully implement the ceasefire agreement, but the problem is with some individuals who benefit from the chaos, as well as the militias that want to stay in power and try to obstruct these efforts.”
He said “the United States hosted the two Libyan teams with the aim of discussing the unification of the military institution, and the challenges facing Africa and Libya, such as combating terrorism, confronting irregular migration and organized crime, which are challenges facing Africa as well as the West.”
He pointed out that “the military track will move forward in the coming period, with international support, especially from Washington, to push the parties to a solution, and try to activate the military track through mechanisms, expelling mercenaries, collecting weapons, and dissolving militias in accordance with United Nations plans to resolve the Libyan crisis.”
Dbeibeh Complicates the Complex
In the political matter, the Head of the Government of National Unity, Abdel Hamid Dbeiebh, made the political situation more complicated by his statements on Saturday, March 3, after he downplayed the agreement on the new constitutional amendments between HoR and HCS, and refused to recognize it.
Dbeibeh stressed that the agreement will not change his position refusing to hand over his government’s duties to an alternative government that prepares for the electoral process, saying that “there is no solution for the Libyan people except to establish the constitution and hold a referendum on it after everyone agrees on it, and it is suitable for Libya until 100 years, and there is no other option.”
Dbeibeh said that “even the constitutional basis for the elections, which the HoR and HCS are preparing for, must be put to a popular referendum first,” referring to his rejection of the 13th constitutional amendment approved by the two legislative bodies.
He added, “I refuse tailoring the election laws to the size of one person, because this does not suit us,” calling on “local and international parties not to think about the possibility of a military ruling Libya,” noting that “any military who wants to rule must take off his military suit before entering the elections.”
Running after the Mirage
Commenting on the implications of the statements made by Dbeibeh and their impact on the frantic local and international desire to organize elections before the end of this year, Libyan journalist Mohamed Haraka said, “These statements reaffirm that reliance on a political process involving the current parties in control of the situation is running behind the mirage, wasting more precious time.”
Haraka continued, “Dbeibeh’s statements can never be bypassed because he has military force on the ground that imposes a fait accompli in the country’s largest city and the center of political and economic decision-making. Therefore, his rejection of any agreement between HoR and HCS is a real problem on the way to a political solution.”
Report by: Zaid Hadiya – Independent Arabia newspaper
Translated by: The Libya Update