Libya is already a mess, but things may be about to take a serious turn for the worse. Only a few months have passed since the United Nations helped Libyans to cobble together a unity government that was supposed to end the country’s two-year civil war. Yet now that faint hope of stability is threatening to vanish — and the result could be an even broader conflict, one that might even ultimately lead to partition.

The reason is simple. In their rush to create a new government that might restore a modicum of stability, Libya’s ostensible friends in the international community overlooked one big obstacle: General Khalifa Haftar and his motley band of Qaddafi-era soldiers and militias known as the Libyan National Army (LNA).

Haftar is an odd and much misunderstood piece in the wider Libyan puzzle. Behind him stands a collection of various political and community leaders who have much to gain by aligning themselves with him — even if only temporarily. The general also enjoys quite a bit of genuine popular support, mainly in the eastern province of Cyrenaica but to some extent nationwide.

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