Libya’s general Khalifa Hafter has said that once his Operation Dignity has liberated Benghazi, he will retire from the military.
In a pre-recorded televised message broadcast simultaneously on several Libyan stations Tuesday night, Hafter outlined the achievements since the month of May of Operation Dignity – as he saw them – and promised that “life would return to normal after the coming difficult hours and days”.
Stating that the national army would launch a major assault in Benghazi on Wednesday to expel Islamist militants from the area, the general called on residents to take up arms and to rise up against the “terrorists” in one final push to re-take the city.
According to Hafter, the government-funded revolutionary brigades had become a threat to national security, leaving him and his colleagues with no other option than to take up arms last spring to “defend the integrity and resources of their homeland”. They were well aware of the high price to be paid to achieve that goal, Hafter said.
“This war is really against a broad network of terrorists targeting the entire region and sustained with the collaboration of some Libyans,” Hafter said. “Through our interrogations of captured fighters, we have learned that we have been fighting a battle of international proportions. Not only are the terrorists being financed and trained using foreign monies, but foreign terrorists have been systematically brought into Libya to kills us,” he added.
Speaking of Operation Dignity’s achievements, Hafter said that it had provided and built up military equipment for new divisions of the Libyan army; developed intelligence services that had obtained valuable information on terrorist gangs, foreign fighter recruitment and transportation of foreign fighters and weapons; secured a “safe haven” for the House of Representatives and the government in Tobruk and Beida; brought about the unity of the Libyan army under the command of the HoR-appointed Chief of Staff Abdul Razzaq Nazhuri; and had built a strong base for the democratic process in Libya. The national army stands at an equal distance from all sides within the political process, he stressed.
The liberation and stability of Benghazi is the most important step at this stage, Hafter said. Once the city has been liberated the national army will return to its bases and reorganise under the leadership of the Libyan Chief of Staff.
The government and the HoR have an ambivalent relationship with Hafter. As far as it is concerned, he has already retired. Initially it did not accept his Operation Dignity when it started in May. In August, Operation Dignity was officially incorporated into the national army when Nazhuri, a senior Dignity commander, was appointed Chief of Staff. In reality, however, Dignity continues with its own command structure under Hafter.
This article was originally published here.