Libyan Rebel Commander Is From Fairfax, Virginia

Gen. Khalifa Haftr wears pinstripe suit instead of camouflage.

ByABC News
March 30, 2011, 11:51 AM

BENGHAZI, Libya March 30, 2011— -- Gen. Khalifa Haftr, the self-proclaimed commander of the Free Libyan Army, does not dress for battle. On a recent day after his forces had reclaimed much of the territory they had lost, the commander was wearing a pinstripe suit and a black turtleneck sweater.

Haftr, who lived in Fairfax, Va., until recent weeks when he returned to join the rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi, was appointed to lead the rebel army earlier this month. His top aides appear to be his sons.

It is difficult for the media as well as the Obama administration to determine who, if anyone, is in charge of the rebellion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently, "We don't know as much as we would like to know and as much as we expect we will know. We're picking up information."

A U.S. official said, "There's still a fair amount of uncertainty here on who's who in the opposition camp."

After a surge across eastern Libya following allied aerial attacks on Gadhafi's forces, the rebel army is again in retreat from the city key oil city of Ras Lanouf, and it's not clear who is commanding them.

Haftr, a general in Gadhafi's army during the 1980s, claims to be in charge. Haftr told ABC News that he doesn't officially report to Omar Hariri, the rebels' defense minister; or to Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, who has the title of chief of staff.

The general claims that one of his sons is in regular contact with James Clapper, U.S. director of National Intelliglence, a claim that a spokesperson for Clapper said was inaccurate.

Haftr spoke with ABC News earlier this week at a time the rebels were on the march behind allied air power. At the time, Haftr predicted that the rebels' advance on Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte would not be a major test for his ragtag army, and that the city would fall easily.

Instead, the rebels ran into tanks and artillery and are now fleeing for safety.

The opposition's military command structure -- what is known of it -- has some inherent problems. A U.S. official pointed out that Haftr and Younes have been on opposite sides for a long time.

When Haftr served under Gadhafi, he fought in Chad, a military debacle in which thousands of Libyan soldiers died. After being arrested in Chad, Haftr says he was sentenced to death by Gadhafi, but managed to seek asylum in the U.S. He said he returned to Libya in recent weeks and was promptly put in charge of the rebel forces.

\"Follow

The opposition's military command structure -- what is known of it -- has some inherent problems. A U.S. official pointed out that Haftr and Younes have been on opposite sides for a long time.

When Haftr served under Gadhafi, he fought in Chad, a military debacle in which thousands of Libyan soldiers died. After being arrested in Chad, Haftr says he was sentenced to death by Gadhafi, but managed to seek asylum in the U.S. He said he returned to Libya in recent weeks and was promptly put in charge of the rebel forces.","publishedDate":"2011-03-30T15:51:56Z","contributors":[{"name":"ABC News","url":"","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""}],"modifiedDate":"2011-04-01T16:13:50Z","section":"Blotter","wordCount":437,"relatedTags":{"heading":"Related Topics","tags":[]},"lead":{"ratio":"16x9","disableForMobile":false,"type":"xl","mediaType":"image","alignCaptionToBody":true},"ads":{"Sticky":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"RightRail":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"InlineBox":{},"InlineOutstream":{"disabled":false},"Taboola":{"position":"bottom","pageType":"article","config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","container":"taboola-below-article-thumbnails","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"}}},"featuredVideo":null,"dateline":"BENGHAZI, Libya March 30, 2011—","seo":{},"LivePromotion":{}},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]}},"upw":{"balanceOfPower":{"electoral":{"header":"Biden Projected to be President-Elect","candidates":{"democrats":{"id":1036,"displayName":"Joe Biden","shortDisplayName":"J. 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