Libya may have found its strongman.
The US could have used a rogue commanders while Americans were being murdered in Benghazi. That doesn't necessarily mean this is a good thing. But it may not be a bad thing.
General Hiftar has lived in the US for decades and has ties to the CIA and the State Department that go back for some time. I don't believe that the current administration would back this type of action, but Hiftar may be demonstrating to the US why we should back him.
After Obama's illegal regime change attack on Libya, the country is a mess. There are two prime ministers, one is a Muslim Brotherhood man, the other is in exile. Much of the country is run by various militias with ties to Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood.
This looks like a strongman's bid for power by showing that he can control the country. Muslim countries in the Middle East invariably revert to strongmen. Now Libya may have found its strongman.
The heaviest fighting in Libya since the Arab spring revolution broke out in the eastern capital of Benghazi on Friday as forces led by a retired general attacked militias on the ground and with jets.
Air strikes pounded militia bases at dawn and 6,000 troops converged on the city, storming a series of bases and checkpoints.
Eyewitnesses described a city in chaos, with jets streaking low over rooftops, tanks on the streets, heavy detonations and aggressive fighting.
"The fighting is close to my house," said one resident in the Hawari district. "Planes are going very low, there are explosions, there is fighting around the February 17 [militia] base."
The Feb 17 militia was hired by Hillary's State Department to protect the US mission. And then State stopped paying them. The militia is loosely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and even to Al Qaeda. It may have also played a role in the attack.
The attack is led by Khalifa Hiftar, a former commander of the 2011 uprising that deposed Muammar Gaddafi. Hitfar announced the operation was launched to clear Benghazi of Islamist militias and restore Libya's dignity.
Hiftar, who called on the army earlier this year to mount a coup against the government, appears to have the support of a significant proportion of Libya's armed forces. He insisted the operation was sanctioned by army commanders, saying: "All reserve forces are mobilised. If we fail today, the terrorists win."
But Libya's government insisted the operation had no official sanction, with the chief of the general staff, Abdul Salam Jadallah, branding Hiftar a criminal and ordering Benghazi's militias to fight back.
Air force planes struck the bases of the Rafalla al-Sahati and Ansar al-Sharia militias, the latter blamed by Washington for the attack two years ago on the US consulate that led to the death of ambassador Chris Stevens.
Abdul Salam Jadallah (Major-General Abdulsalam Jadallah al-Salihine al-Obeidi) is from Benghazi and was appointed last year. He defected from Gaddafi's forces, but then went rogue refusing to follow the orders of the former Prime Minister. He's calling for Benghazi militias to fight back which is rather revealing of his ties to them.
Khalifa Hiftar obviously commands a sizable portion of the military which means that he can do what the government can't.
In the Muslim Middle East that's often all the qualification for running an otherwise anarchic collection of tribes that you need.