Libyan General advocates for force to stabilize country and stop migrants arriving in Europe

© AP Photo/ Mohammed El-Sheikhy

TMP – 04/10/2017

General Khalifa Haftar, commander in the Libyan National Army (LNA), has advocated for the use of force in stabilizing the country, though he added that a political solution would be preferable.

Libya has been extremely unstable and unsafe since Muammar Gaddafi’s rule ended in 2011. Amidst this insecurity and lawlessness, smuggling networks have exploded and have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe via Italy in life-threatening conditions. However, recent efforts led by the Italian government are starting to crack down on the smuggling networks.

“We are defeating terrorism in Libya not through diplomatic channels, but with weapon,” Haftar told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview.

Haftar also said Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti had agreed to train his soldiers and urged the revocation of a U.N. arms embargo “if European countries are interested in stopping migrants”.

As to his army’s ability to stop migrants trying to reach Europe, Haftar said: “For the control of borders in South, I can provide manpower, but Europeans must send aid: drones, helicopters, night vision goggles, vehicles.”

He also criticized Italian efforts to convert armed groups on the Western coast into anti-smuggling police.

“It’s a big mistake. The Italian government should not be led astray by the militias,” Haftar said.

Several media outlets have reported that the leader of the Anas al-Dabbashi brigade, once one of the country’s biggest people smuggling gangs, has received five million euros from Italy to stop the migrant boats – something Italy denies.

There has been a significant reduction in the number of migrants reaching Italy’s shores since Anas al-Dabbashi clamped down on trafficking in July, in exchange for promises of legitimacy and jobs.