President Donald Trump spoke with Libyan general Khalifa Haftar at the beginning of this week when he applauded the general on his efforts “in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s vast oil resources.” At the same time, Haftar’s troops were continuing their offensive on the U.S.-backed government in the Libyan capital.
The White House said in a statement Friday that President Trump also discussed with the general “a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”
Trump apparently made no mention of Haftar’s offensive, while his comments notably differ from ones made by his administration, CNN writes. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States opposed “the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces,” calling on the general to stop the march on the Libyan capital Tripoli.
“This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans,” Pompeo added.
The World Health Organization has registered 213 dead and another 1,009 injured after fighting began earlier this month.
Asked if the U.S. supported Haftar’s offense on the capital, acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan said “a military solution is not what Libya needs” and added that the Pentagon’s views on the country are “well aligned” with Trump’s.
“A military solution is not what Libya needs, so what we’ve said before and what I do support is Field Marshal Haftar’s support in terms of his role in counterterrorism but where we need Field Marshal Haftar’s support is in building democratic stability there in the region,” Shanahan noted.
The U.S. supports the UN recognized government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, although some officials have maintained contacts with Haftar. After his April 4 attack on Tripoli, the U.S. withdrew some troops from Libya as a result of “increased unrest” in the North African country.