The Libyan warlord faces an ICC investigation for his alleged role in mass grave burials and resistance from his allies.
Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar has reportedly decentralised his command by delegating powers to his subordinate, Abdulrazek al Nadoori.
This comes after several reports of a rift between Haftar and Libya’s Tobruk-based so called House of Representatives (HoR), Aguilah Saleh, emerged in the past few months. Saleh however has denied this, albeit with a measured tone.
Although Saleh has repeatedly said his relationship with Haftar has exceeded any formal positions, he has been candid in confessing that instead of disagreements, he has only ever experienced a difference of views with the warlord, something he has called a “natural and healthy phenomenon” in all countries of the world.
With Haftar now taking a backseat – as per news reports – Nadoori will be heading the Operation Dignity Major Room, or in essence, the central command of Haftar’s militias, as well as the military zones currently controlled by the warlord’s militias, and all security rooms, including a training directorate.
For regional experts, Haftar’s decision to transfer powers to al Nadoori was done with the intention of avoiding potential consequences from his previous failures: overseeing burials of civilians in mass graves and war crimes committed by his mobs during an offensive against the UN-backed government of GNA.
Other experts say Aguila Saleh’s recent moves, coupled with the International Criminal Court’s investigation of mass graves in Tarhuna, gave an irreversible battering to Haftar’s reputation and paved the way for this new ascent to power.
Egypt is also apparently losing its confidence in Haftar, with reports emerging from Cairo that suggest the Egyptian regime is exploring alternatives to the warlord, especially after he faced back-to-back defeats at the hands of the UN-backed government.
According to Karim Mezran, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Aguila Saleh wields a strong influence in eastern Libya. He is not only the speaker of a pro-Haftar parliament, but also a crucial political figure belonging to the al Ubadiat tribe in Tobruk.
In addition to this, Saleh comes from a tribe that has historically run security institutions in Tobruk.
In late June, Saleh urged Egypt’s Sisi to intervene militarily in support of Haftar should the Libya’s forces attack the strategic city of Sirte. As a jurist and politician, Saleh’s demand struck many as odd.
Time and again, Saleh has proved himself a cunning politician, ready to betray even his own allies. In May last year, he met with top leaders of Haftar’s militias without including the warlord in the meeting. Haftar’s absence stood out because he had had several disagreements with Saleh around that time. The biggest disagreement they had was over Haftar appointing himself as the sole leader of Libya, a claim HoR’s vehemently rejected. The other point of confrontation between them was Haftar violating the UN-brokered 2015 political agreement.
Since then, several reports have emerged that Aguila Saleh, who prefers to be called as “Supreme Commander of Armed Forces,” desired to appoint Nadori as Haftar’s successor.
Libyan analyst, Mohamed Buisier, recently told the Anadolu Agency that Haftar will be defeated by the end of this year as several countries, including the US, have realised that he is a war criminal, especially after his militias attacked civilians and diplomatic missions.
Given these facts, Haftar’s decision might be read from different perspectives.
A first scenario suggests that after considering the internal and external dynamics, Egypt could well support Aguila Saleh as Cairo’s new political partner and hence impose Abdulrazek al Nadoori as its new militia leader.
In addition, in the eyes of Egypt, Saleh is a bit due to both his political identity and tribal power. Sisi’s latest attempt to arm tribes against the UN-backed government in Libya might be seen as a part of this thought despite its early failure. In response, Haftar might want to empower Nadoori to weaken Saleh’s authority. It was Saleh who first appointed Nadoori as the self-styled Libyan National Army’s chief of staff in 2016.
The second scenario would be based on Haftar trying to gain the support of Saleh’s militia leaders and linking them to the crimes committed by his forces. With Saleh’s militias on his side, he can easily blame them for war crimes committed under his watch.