General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi, May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
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Rogue Gen. Khalifa Haftar has been waiting decades for his moment.Haftar, a 70-year-old military officer, helped Gadhafi in his 1969 coup against the Libyan monarchy by taking control of Tripoli's Matiga air base, according to his son. He then rose through the ranks of the Libyan army until he was named the military chief, and led Libyan forces alongside Egyptian forces in the 1973 Arab war against Israel.But Libya's disastrous defeat in its decadelong war in Chad did not help Haftar's reputation.Haftar was among those captured, and he defected from the Gadhafi regime in 1987 as the war ended.After the war, Haftar disappeared from the public for most of the last two years, but his name kept floating as a potential defense minister.Little is still known about the forces Haftar managed to harness in preparation for his offensive.Supporters have been flocking to Haftar from all directions – including a host of anti-Islamist politicians, the commander of the air force and Libya's Interior Ministry, which is employing militia fighters in the offensive.
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