Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s strongest warlord, makes a push for Tripoli

THIS WAS supposed to be a rare moment of cautious optimism in Libya. On April 4th António Guterres, the UN’s secretary-general, arrived in Tripoli, the capital, to prepare for a peace conference which, he hoped, would lead to long-delayed elections later this year. But hours after he arrived Khalifa Haftar, the warlord who controls much of the country, launched an offensive to seize the city. At times his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has reached within 10km or so of Tripoli’s centre. Dozens have been killed. Flights were suspended after General Haftar’s jets bombed the city’s only functioning airport. The conference has been cancelled. “The UN is deeply engaged in negotiations for peace,” Mr Guterres said later. “We’re not always successful, I must confess.”

The general had long threatened to take Tripoli. Until now he was posturing. No one is quite sure why he chose this moment to move on the capital. Whatever his reasons, his offensive is starting to look like a big miscalculation. He would have entered the conference in an enviable position, holding most of Libya’s land and oil wells. Instead the LNA is now bogged down on several fronts. The general risks losing not only the battle for Tripoli but many of his other gains as well.

He may have been encouraged by his recent romp through southern Libya, seized...

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