(CNN)President Donald Trump spoke with Libyan general Khalifa Haftar Monday, praising his role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s vast oil resources even as Haftar’s troops continue their offensive against the UN and US-backed government in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
The statement made no mention of Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli, and Trump’s praise for the rogue Libyan general signals a departure from previous administration statements condemning Haftar’s march on the capital.
“We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement issued earlier this month.
“This unilateral military campaign against Tripoli is endangering civilians and undermining prospects for a better future for all Libyans,” he added.
At least 213 people have been killed and 1,009 have been injured in clashes around the Libyan capital this month, according to the World Health Organization.
While the US has primarily backed the UN recognized Government of National Accord which is based in Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, American diplomats and military officers have maintained contacts with Haftar whose Libyan National Army controls much of eastern and southern Libya.
As a result of Haftar’s offensive, in April the US military withdrew a small number of troops from Libya that had been performing diplomatic and counter-terrorism missions against ISIS, citing “increased unrest in Libya.”
Haftar, who is aligned with a parliament based in the country’s east, has also reportedly received some support in the past from France, Russia, the UAE and Egypt.
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