Dbeibah's message to Haftar: 'Volcano of Anger' is Libya's army
TRIPOLI – The attendance by the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdelhamid al-Dbeibah, at the passing out parade of two groups of graduates from the “Burkan al-Ghadab” (Volcano of Anger) forces, sent a specific message to the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
The gist of this message is that the GNU relies on these forces to build the Libyan army and not on those under Haftar’s command.
The field marshal had in recent weeks invited Dbeibah to attend a military parade in Benghazi to mark the seventh anniversary of the launch of Operation Dignity, but Dbeibah turned down the invitation and went instead on a visit to Algeria as part of a foreign tour.
Dbeibah and Abdullah al-Lafi, the vice-president of the Presidency Council and army supreme commander,, attended, on Saturday, the graduation ceremony of two batches of the “Burkan Al-Ghadhab” forces.
According to separate statements issued by the government, the Presidency Council and Operation Volcano of Anger, the ceremony honoured the fifty-first batch of military academy graduates and the third batch of cadets studying at the Air Defence College in Misrata.
The two batches included more than 400 graduates, according to a statement by the media centre for “Operation Volcano of Anger” posted on its Twitter account.
The ceremony was attended by “the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Muhammad Al-Haddad, various chiefs of staff, commanders of military regions, ministers of transportation and local government and the minister of state for communication and political affairs.”
Dbeibah congratulated the “officers and non-commissioned officers among the graduates,” wishing them success in the performance of their duties.
He explained that this graduation is part of “the modernisation of the Libyan army and the infusion of new blood into it by integrating, absorbing, training and preparing them professionally.”
He added, “I am looking forward to seeing the graduates (from the Volcano of Anger Forces) in leadership positions in the Libyan army as soon as possible.”
“Volcano of Anger” is the code name for a military operation launched by the then Government of National Accord on April 4, 2019, to thwart the LNA’s offensive towards Tripoli.
Mostly pro-Islamist military personnel and armed militias participated in the operation.
The continued presence of armed formations and militias is among the main challenges impeding the building of national understanding and ending divisions within Libya. It is also a point of contention that hinders the unification of the military institution.
While the GNU authorities consider it necessary to integrate the armed formations and militias into the regular services, Haftar calls for their dissolution and disarming.
Speculation varied as to why Dbeibah refused to attend Haftar’s parade in Benghazi at the end of last month. Some said that the ceremony could have angered the armed groups in the western region, especially in Misrata, from which Dbeibah hails, not least since some Misratans had the fought against the LNA in Benghazi during its Operation Dignity.
Others considered Dbeibah’s refusal to attend a logical reaction, given the tension between himself and Haftar. This came out into the open after the army prevented a plane carrying GNU officials from landing in Benghazi to hold the first ministerial meeting of the government in the city.
Haftar later issued a statement in which he pointed out that his forces are not under the command of the Government of National Unity. But he subsequently invited Dbeibah, his government and the Presidency Council to attend the military parade.
The invitation was considered an attempt by Haftar to embarrass Dbeibah in front of the Cyrenaicans whom he is trying to woo as part of his attempts to isolate the field marshal and reduce his influence in the eastern region. After Dbeibah was blocked from holding his planned cabinet meeting in Benghazi, tribal and local delegations instead went and met the prime minister in Tripoli.
But Dbeibah’s failure to attend the LNA military parade while going to the graduation ceremony of members of the “Volcano of Anger,” may undermine his efforts for rapprochement with the eastern region. His action is likely to be seen as reflecting hostility towards the LNA, which consists mostly of people from the eastern region and some cities in the western region that are opposed to Islamists and connected to the previous regime.
Observers say that Dbeibah’s escalation of his moves against Haftar stems from his conviction that the LNA is unable to undertake any hostile moves against him in view of the international consensus in favour of closing the chapter of war and moving forward towards unifying the country and ending divisions.
These observers do not rule out that Dbeibah has received expressions of support during his foreign tour in Europe and the Gulf, in a way that reduces the possibility that the LNA’s traditional allies would back the army in a new war as threatened by Haftar during a speech he gave during the military parade.
“We will not hesitate to engage again in battles to impose peace by force, if it is obstructed,” Haftar warned, according to the Libyan Centre Gate.
“Let us give ample room to a just and peaceful solution in Libya, which requires the departure of foreign forces and the dissolution of armed groups deployed in the capital, Tripoli,” he added.