Warring Libyan factions build armies of foreign agents in Washington
By Reid Champlin
The Libyan civil war rages well into its eighth year as warlord Khalifa Haftar lays siege to Tripoli, the nation’s capital and seat of the United Nations-backed government.
Rebel leader Khalifa Haftar attending the Conference for Libya in Palermo, Italy (Photo by Tullio Puglia/Getty Images)
The Libyan civil war rages well into its eighth year as warlord Khalifa Haftar lays siege to Tripoli, the nation’s capital and seat of the United Nations-backed government. Haftar’s attack has escalated the violence that has plagued the country since the downfall of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the 2011 Arab Spring. Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which controls over two-thirds of the nation’s territory, stands accused of dozens of war crimes, including a deadly airstrike on a Tripoli migrant detention center, as many nations around the world shift allegiances toward the warlord and away from the U.N.-backed government.Almost 5,000 miles away in Washington, the battle rages on a different front: Both the Libyan government and the rebels have inked multi-million dollar deals with prominent D.C. lobbyists as they aim to win the backing of American policymakers.Left scrambling after Haftar’s attack, Mercury Public Affairs and Prime Policy Group added at least 17 foreign agents to foreign influence operations for the Libyan government since early May. The hires include former Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), a longtime stalwart on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and vice chairman of Prime Policy Group, and Edward Cox, former senior policy advisor to retired Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The government agreed to pay Mercury $2 million annually in retaining their services. Prime Policy Group, on the other hand, says it made a verbal agreement to work on a pro-bonobasis.“A unified, democratic Libya is in the best interest of Libyans and furthers the security goals of the United States,” the organization said in a press release.Haftar’s Libyan National Army has contracted five foreign agents and operatives at Linden Government Solutions, a Texas firm headed by former Bush administration official Stephen Payne. The arrangement, first reported by the AP, will officially include meetings with U.S. officials, “international coalition building and general public relations.”Payne has an extensive history with the troubled North African nation. He visited in 2011 with former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Penn.) before the fall of Gaddafi, helping to negotiate the release of three imprisoned journalists. At the same time, he was bankrolling Weldon’s visit in hopes the former congressman could convince Gaddafi to step down. Payne has close ties to three of Gaddafi’s sons.The one-year deal with Linden is worth about $2 million. While not explicitly mentioned in the contract, both parties may have an interest in Libyan’s abundant oil, as Payne and legal counsel Brian Ettinger have deep ties in international energy markets and Haftar recently gained control of El Sharara, Libya’s largest oil field.
Warlord Haftar controls two-thirds of Libya, including nation’s largest oil field
The Libyan National Army under Khalifa Haftar controls most of Libya save for the northeastern coast, where the Government of National Accord continues to rule several major cities.
Cities in green are controlled by the Government of National Accord; cities in red are controlled by the Libyan National Army.Source: Eurasia Review
Reid Champlin is an investigative journalist covering campaign finance and foreign affairs. He’s a rising junior at the College of William and Mary studying government. Prior to joining the CRP in the summer of 2019, Reid was an inaugural VICE Collegiate Reporting Fellow covering mental health.
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