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The rapid rise of Libya's General Hifter

On the third anniversary of Operation Dignity to retake Benghazi from Islamist control, Gen. Khalifa Hifter has become a major political player, but his ultimate goals remain unknown.
A man holds a picture of General Khalifa Haftar during a demonstration in support of the Libyan army under the leadership of General Khalifa in Benghazi, Libya November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori - RTX1V2OW

When Gen. Khalifa Hifter was about to launch Operation Karama (Dignity) in Benghazi, he appeared to be signing his own death warrant when he appeared on TV on May 17, 2014, making an announcement in which he declared war on terror, suspending the interim constitution and suspending the government and the elected General National Congress. No one took him seriously then, and his operation seemed like another episode in Libya’s sporadic mini-wars.

At the time, Benghazi, in eastern Libya, was dominated by different Islamist militias accused of killing over 200 military officers, journalists and civil activists, as well as well-known female activist Salwa Bugaighis on June 14, 2014, right after she cast her vote for the 2014 general election. Back then, Hifter was embarking on what appeared to be an impossible mission to rid Libya’s second-largest city of radical groups once and for all.

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