A Libyan commander with ties to Moscow has kicked "moderate" rebels out of two key oil ports. Fighting terrorists — the Russian way.
A Libyan commander with ties to Moscow has just recaptured two key oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, from "Islamist militias" (fanatics affiliated with al-Qaeda) that seized them earlier this month.
Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), has previously asked Moscow for weapons and equipment, and had a January meeting with the Russians aboard their aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, en route back to Syria.
The LNA actually lost control of Sidra and Ras Lanuf on March 3, when the Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) and "former Ibrahim Jadhran loyalists and units from other allied factions (some reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia)" pushed them out of the oil ports.
Yesterday Moscow denied a Reuters report claiming that Russian Special Forces are operating from an Egyptian airbase near the Libyan border.
Of course, the Reuters report could be a well-coordinated western media blitz to play "the Russians are coming!" card (again), but the timing here does raise some eyebrows.
Why did Haftar wait nearly a week to counter-attack? According to our calculations, it took Haftar less than 36 hours to retake Sidra and Ras Lanuf.
Haftar was clearly waiting for "favorable conditions" — perhaps in the form of Russian military advisors.
The level of direct Russian assistance to Haftar is not at all clear at this point, but what is known is that Moscow has aligned itself with the one Libyan general who has a no-nonsense stance on "moderate" rebels. Last year he pushed Islamist militants out of much of Benghazi.
In other words: He fights terrorists like a Russian.
(Just for some contrast: In nearly every interview he gives, Syrian President Bashar Assad describes the U.S. coalition "strikes" against ISIS as "cosmetic". In other words: Washington's idea of fighting terrorism involves bombing empty desert.)
Again, it's still unclear just how "Russian-backed" Haftar really is. But one thing is certain: Haftar fights terrorists the Russian way.
Playtime is over for Al-Qaeda in Libya. We think this is noteworthy — perhaps even deeply revelatory.
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