Breaking truces is one of Haftar's latest ploys to remain relevant in the ongoing conflict. Except for the UAE, the warlord is fast becoming a spent force, according to regional experts.

The militias loyal to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar have recently launched a wave of attacks in Sirte and Juffra regions. They are acts that have violated the new ceasefire that was brokered by several countries and stakeholders - all of this continues to make it difficult for the country to emerge from a troubled five years of civil war. 

Last week, Libya’s UN-backed and internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA),  announced a ceasefire and called for demilitarisation of conflict hotspots, the city of Sirte, a redline for many regional actors. 

Egypt, as well as the eastern-based parliament of Tobruk led by Aguila Saleh, who commands the respect of one of Libya's strongest armed tribes, had also agreed to observe the truce.

Saleh also called on all parties of the conflict to adhere to the truce in the hope of building up a political process in the country. 

Since Haftar is losing his influence and relevance both inside Libya and in the eyes of his international backers, the warlord has shown no tolerance for peace-building steps taken by his opponents and other stakeholders in the conflict.  

Haftar could not hide his desire to lead a dictatorship in Libya.  He once said Libya and Libyans are not ready for democracy.  With that state of mind, he has proceeded to break many peace initiatives that had been accepted by the GNA. Haftar has also dismissed every peacebuilding measure as "a marketing stunt." 

Thursday's violation was aided and abetted by the Russian mercenary group Wagner. According to the GNA, "the terrorist al-Karama gangs and the Russian affiliated Wagner Group attempted to target their valiant forces with more than 12 Grad missiles."

For the GNA, it was a "clear breach of the cease-fire agreement that was announced last Friday."

On August 21, both the GNA and the pro-Haftar Tobruk-based eastern House of Representatives agreed on a truce and to hold presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Since Haftar has been wary of such democratic initiatives, experts believe that he is lost in the woods and unable to come to terms with the changing battlefield realities. 

Speaking to TRT World, Dr Ali Bakeer, an Ankara-based political analyst, said that "most  Libyans would not accept Haftar’s participation in any form of talks and/or political process after he openly expressed his desires to control Libya by military force and actually put that in practice." 

“He is an unstable, bloodthirsty dictator with zero credibility and has committed a lot of crimes against humanity,” he added. 

Bakeer said Aguila Saleh's participation in the ceasefire initiative also indicates that Haftar is out of Libya's political equation.  "This reflects the fragmentation of the LNA front and underlines the competition among its figures to lead. This shows that the LNA front is not credible and reliable since its different fractions can’t agree on things," he said. 

“One more issue is that ceasefire and political process means that services of Haftar as warlord and services of his mercenaries are no longer needed but it is hard to convince him and the mercenaries to just go. Their interest requires the fight to continue because they make a business out of it”. 

Are Haftar and Saleh at odds?

While Haftar enjoys immense support from the oil-rich UAE, Saleh has been instrumental in managing Libya's strongest tribes and working in tandem with Abu Dhabi's foreign policy goals. 

However, when Egypt began taking a proactive role in the conflict, Bakeer says that Saleh started gravitating towards Cairo and away from the ambit of the UAE.

“In fact, Haftar owes his existence to Abu Dhabi. They literally bought him an army, military equipment, political support, etc. I believe that the UAE has no real interest in credible ceasefire or political process in Libya because its whole agenda is based on undermining a genuine democratic experience and installing a military dictatorship, that is why the UAE and some of Haftar’s allies still making use of him and will try hard to sabotage efforts to bring stability in Libya,” he explains.

Talha Kose, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Ibn Haldun University, said the Libyan conflict has reached a point where Saleh and Haftar are being handled separately by their respective international backers. 

“At least Saleh has a legitimate role and local power, but Haftar owes his existence completely to the foreign support and military power,” Kose told TRT World. 

Kose added that in the long term, Saleh might play a part in the future political process in Libya but any kind of political solution would externalise warlord Haftar, particularly because the reckless decisions he has been making on the behest of foreign powers. 

The UAE’s shadow 

Kose said the UAE has no interest in working towards peace building in Libya since its foreign policy gains are directly subservient to the longevity of the conflict. 

“Saleh's support to the truce and desire to participate in the peaceful political transition can make peacebuilding possible in the near future but for Haftar, the only option is the military option,” Kose told TRT World. 

"Abu Dhabi at least wants to divide Libya and have control, particularly over eastern Libya. They are using Haftar for that job," Kose said. 

Since Egypt supported GNA's ceasefire call, Kose said Cairo's approach toward the conflict still complements the UAE's designs and it's unclear whether Cairo would want to see an integrated or divided Libya in the near future. 

Source: TRT World