17 April – 23 April: Trump and Haftar discuss “shared vision for Libya”

Apr 23, 2019 | International actors

On 15 April, US President Donald Trump had a phone conversation with Libyan National Army (LNA) head Khalifa Haftar. An official White House statement indicated they discussed the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya and on-going counterterrorism efforts. Reports suggest Trump recognised Haftar’s significant role in securing Libya’s oil resources and fighting terrorism. In addition, the two “discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

Several days later on 19 April, at a Pentagon press conference, US Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, confirmed the US support for Haftar. Shanahan noted his role in counterterrorism and establishing regional democratic stability, while commenting that a “military solution is not what Libya needs” adding that he appreciates “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”. When questioned whether the US President contacted Shanahan prior to his phone call with General Haftar, Shanahan stated, “The Department and the Executive branch are well aligned on Libya.”

On 22 April, Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj played down the conversation between Haftar and Trump, saying that while he hadn’t spoken to Trump his engagement with the US administration suggested they opposed his military actions. This alleged opposition to military action was reinforced on 18 April when US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo held a phone call with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss ways to approach resolving the conflict in Libya and Yemen. The statement declared senior administration figures “reaffirmed their commitment to continue diplomatic efforts to achieve a freeze on the ground and a return to the political process.”