In North Africa, self-styled “Field Marshal” Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, one of the key members of the coup against the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of King Idris that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969 and current head of the so-called Libyan National Army, is flexing his military muscle and moving troops towards Tripoli.
Propaganda footage of the column, from the LNA:
Haftar today, now a wily 76-year-old, is an old-school warlord with a curious past and is arguably the most powerful single individual in North Africa.
After graduating from the Benghazi Royal Military College and attending an advanced course at Frunze in Moscow, the young staff officer was Gaddafi’s favorite for his role in the “White Revolution” that brought the wacky dictator and his Amazons to the sit on Idris’s throne.
Haftar, with X, on the back of Gaddafi, back in the good ole days
By age 30, he was commanding the forces sent to help the Egyptians in the Sinai in 1973. By the late 1970s, he was Libya’s point man in the attempt to overrun French-allied Chad to the South.
However, as any historian of French colonial efforts since the 1600s will vouch, Paris does not cede influence without a bitter fight to the last colonial soldier and the nearly decade-long “Toyota War” that ensued– so named due to the fact that the Chadians were equipped with the easiest of 20th Century weapons: cheap commercial pickup trucks fitted with recoilless rifles and AAA guns.
Something like this:
Dig the FAMAS hanging out of the passenger’s seat
It was epic.
In the end, with the help of some French Mirages and a few advisers/mercs/spy types that didn’t mind getting their hands dirty, the Libyans got licked good and by 1987 were driven back across the border in a rout, leaving behind shiploads of really nice Warsaw Pact tanks, APCs and accouterment.
Libyan T-55 tanks stand abandoned in the desert after being captured by FANT (Forces Armees Nationales Chadiennes), the Chadian National Army, as troops reconquered the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region of Chad. The Chadian Army recaptured Faya-Largeau and Wadi Doum airport, where the retreating Libyan army abandoned many dead and a great deal of military equipment, most of it of Soviet manufacture. Libyan planes made a bombing raid on the same day in an attempt to destroy material which had fallen into Chadian hands. Between April 6 and April 10, 1987, Wadi Doum, Chad
Western intel loved it as it was a treasure trove of data ripe for the taking, as much of the equipment was “never used and only dropped once” unlike the often scorched and bloody battlefield debris often captured by the Israelis from the Egyptians and Syrians.
Among the detritus of war left behind in the deserts of Northern Chad in 1987 was Col. Haftar, captured along with his entire HQ staff and a battalion’s worth of his men.
Haftar 3rd from the right, marked “2” when he was captured in Chad in 1987. He is now the owner of the most heavily armed group of Toyotas in the world.
While they were eventually repatriated, he elected to stay in the West and joined a U.S. supported opposition group, commanding a CIA-funded “brigade” in exile for almost a decade. He later slipped back into Libya in 2011 and in the morass that has been the country’s revolution and civil war, has been making a move to grab as much of the instruments of power as possible, with his LNA in bed with everyone from the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates to Moscow and Langley. The current push (or is it putsch?) is just a continuation of the book he has been working out of for 50 years.
One thing is for sure from the video of his guys moving towards Tripoli– Haftar, the proverbial cat with nine lives, learned from the Toyota Wars in spades. Most of his battle convoy looks more at home in a Mad Max movie. Hey, if it works…
The main weapon seems to be 23mm ZPU-23-2 twin anti-aircraft guns, single 12.7mm Dshkas, or quad ZPU-4’s with KPV 14.5mm HMGs mounted on Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series and Hilux series trucks.
The GNA, the UN-backed government in Tripoli, are lauching their own “Volcano of Anger” counteroffensive against the LNA, and have a similar “witness me” style armada of war trucks to back them up.
A backgrounder on the current situation, from France 24, should you be curious.