McClatchy Newspapers April 12, 2011
By Shashank Bengali
BENGHAZI, Libya — Khalifa Hifter thought he’d be America’s man in Libya.
He’d spent the last 24 years living under what he calls U.S. government protection in suburban northern Virginia. Before he returned to Libya last month, State Department and CIA officials sought him out for meetings. He delivered to them wish lists of weapons and vehicles to bolster the fight against Moammar Gadhafi.
To his frustration, however, U.S. officials haven’t contacted him since. They’ve ignored his pleas for direct military support while the rebels steadily lose ground to Gadhafi’s better-equipped forces.
“The United States is a second home to me,” Hifter said. “They should be cooperating with me to help the Libyan people.”
There’s also a dispute about his role with the rebel army, a controversy that may help explain why the rebels appear nearly as disorganized now as they were when their revolt began two months ago.
In one of his first interviews since he returned to Libya, Hifter said that he’d been appointed the rebels’ field commander this week. The hourlong interview he gave to two reporters Monday was arranged by the official rebel military spokesman and conducted in an office in the rebels’ military headquarters. An organizational chart Hifter displayed showed him as equal to Gen. Abdelfatah Younis, a former Gadhafi interior minister who also lays claim to rebel command.
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