Military Wiki
Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Born c. 1943
Place of birth Ajdabiya, Libya
Allegiance  Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
(until 1987)
 Libya (2011–2014)
Service/branch Libya Libyan Ground Forces
Rank Major General
Battles/wars Chadian–Libyan conflict (1978–1987)
Libyan civil war
Battle of Ajdabiya
Third Battle of Brega
2014 Libyan Uprising

Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (sometimes spelled Hifter, Hefter or Huftur, Arabic language: خليفة بالقاسم حفتر‎; born ca. 1943) is a senior military officer in Libya. In April 2011, he was reported as holding the rank of major general.[1][2] Although born in and primarily active in Libya, he spent nearly two decades in the United States and is a US citizen.[3]

Early life

Haftar was born in Ajdabiya circa 1943,[4] and is a member of the al-Farjani tribe.[5] He graduated from the Benghazi Military Academy and then went on to receive military training in the Soviet Union.[6]

Early years in the Gaddafi government

Haftar assisted Gaddafi in the overthrow of Libya's King Idris in 1969. Like other members of the Free Unionist Officers (the junta that toppled the monarchy), Haftar was a secularist and a Nasserist.[6][7] He was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council which governed Libya in the immediate aftermath of the civil war.[6] Haftar later became Gaddafi's military chief of staff.[8]

War with Chad

In 1986, he had attained the rank of colonel, and was then the chief officer in command of Gaddafi's military forces in Chad in the Chadian–Libyan conflict. During the war, in which the Libyan forces were either captured or driven back across the border, Haftar and 600-700 of his men were captured as prisoners of war, and incarcerated in 1987 after their defeat in the Battle of Maaten al-Sarra.[9] Shortly after this disastrous battle, Gaddafi disavowed Haftar and the other Libyan prisoners of war captured by Chad. One possible contributing factor to Gaddafi's repudiation of Haftar and of other captured prisoners of war may have been the fact that Gaddafi had earlier signed an agreement to withdraw all Libyan forces from Chad, and Haftar's operations inside of Chad had been in violation of this agreement.[10][11] Another possible reason given for Gaddafi's abandonment of Haftar was the potential that Haftar might return to Libya as a hero and thus pose a threat to Gaddafi's rule itself.[6] In any event, Gaddafi's repudiation clearly served to embitter Haftar towards Gaddafi.

Opposition to Gaddafi

After several years of incarceration and eventual release, and after an American CIA negotiated settlement around 1990, he and several of his former affiliates moved to the United States, where they were ostensibly trained by the CIA in Langley, Virginia.[11]

Role in the Libyan Civil War

In 2011, he returned to Libya to support the Libyan Civil War. In March, a military spokesperson announced that Haftar had been appointed commander of the military, but the National Transitional Council denied this.[12] By April, Abdul Fatah Younis held the role of commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Omar El-Hariri serving as Younis' Chief of Staff and Haftar took the third most senior position as the commander of ground forces with the rank of lieutenant general.[13][14] Younis was assassinated later that summer.[15]

Attempted overthrow of the government

In February 2014 Haftar appeared in a televised announcement, announcing that the Libyan government had been suspended. His announcement was soon dismissed with great skepticism by the then acting Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, describing the coup as "ridiculous".[16] Three months later in May, in the 2014 Libyan Uprising Haftar re-emerged with a much stronger hand, directing a combined air and ground assault against the pro-Islamic militias of Benghazi, as well as a sustained heavy weapons attack against the Libyan parliament.[17] At the time of the Benghazi assault, Haftar reportedly explained to a friend that he was fully aware of the personal safety risks that naturally attend such military adventures.[18] Later in May, after having been ousted from the General National Congress (GNC) by a pro-Islamist group, Ali Zeidan then endorsed Haftar's movement,[19] along with 40 members of parliament,[20] and the heads of the navy,[21] the air-force,[22] and much of the army.

In June 2014, a suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle at Haftar's residence in Benghazi, killing 4 people and injuring at least 3 others. Haftar was not injured in the attack.[23]


  1. Greenfield, Daniel (May 25, 2014). "Libyan General Promises War on Jihadists, Arrest of Muslim Brotherhood Leaders". Sherman Oaks, California: FrontPage Magazine. Archived from the original on May 25, 2014. // Retrieved May 25, 2014. 
  2. Binnie, Jeremy (May 22, 2014). "Support grows for renegade Libyan general". Englewood, Colorado: Jane's Defence. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. // Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  3. Chorin, Ethan (May 27, 2014). "The New Danger in Benghazi". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. // Retrieved May 27, 2014. 
  4. Hamid, Hoda (14 April 2011). "The Real Battle Is Yet To Come". Aljazeera/ Information Clearing House. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  5. John Ruedy (1996). Islamism and Secularism in North Africa. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 195. ISBN 0-312-16087-9. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Saadah, Ali (May 22, 2014). "Khalifah Haftar - A New Al-Sisi in Libya". Middle East Monitor. The Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on May 22, 2014. // Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  7. Basturk, Levent (May 20, 2014). "Khalifa Haftar: A portrait of a coup general". World Bulletin. Archived from the original on May 22, 2014. // Retrieved May 22, 2014. 
  8. Mohamed, Esam (May 18, 2014). "Renegade Libyan general says parliament suspended". Tripoli, Libya: Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. // Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  9. Valiente, Alexandra (August 28, 2011). "Khalifa Haftar: Libyan CIA Asset". Libya: Libya 360 degree Archive. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. // Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  10. M. Brecher & J. Wilkenfeld, A Study of Crisis, p. 92
  11. 11.0 11.1 Russ Baker (April 22, 2011). "Is General Khalifa Hifter The CIA’s Man In Libya?". Business Insider. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. // Retrieved August 25, 2011. 
  12. McGreal, Chris (April 3, 2011). "Libyan rebel efforts frustrated by internal disputes over leadership". Benghazi, Libya: The Guardian. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. // Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  13. "The colonel feels the squeeze". May 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. // Retrieved May 20, 2011. 
  14. Mark Urban (April 15, 2011). "The task of forming a more effective anti-Gaddafi army". BBC News. Archived from the original on August 21, 2011. // Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  15. "Mystery over Libyan rebel commander's death". Al Jazeera. July 29, 2011. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. // Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  16. Baroud, Ramzy (February 20, 2014). "The Libyan Bedlam: General Hifter, the CIA and the Unfinished Coup". London, UK: Middle East Online. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. // Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  17. Elumami, Ahmed; Ulf Laessing (May 18, 2014). "Gunmen loyal to ex-general storm Libyan parliament, demand suspension". Tripoli, Libya. Archived from the original on May 24, 2014. // Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  18. Oakes, John (30 May 2014). "Karama – Some Notes On Khalifa Hafter's Operation Dignity". Libya Stories. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  19. "Operation Dignity gathers support" (in English/Arabic). Tripoli: Libya Herald. 21 May 2014. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. // Retrieved May 26, 2014. 
  20. "40 Libyan MPs pledge support to renegade general Haftar". Istanbul, Turkey: Worldbulletin News. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  21. "Rogue general gets more top allies". Cape Town, South Africa: News 24. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  22. "Libya's Interior Ministry Back Rebel General Khalifa Hifter". Nigeria: Nairaland. 21 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 

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