Now leading Libya's ragtag army of rebels, Khalifa Hifter has a mysterious past that's raising provocative questions. Once a top commander in Moammar Gadhafi's own army, he left its ranks after a disastrous campaign in Chad, then moved to a home five miles from CIA headquarters in northern Virginia, where he lived from the early 1990s until mid-March, 2011. What happened during those 20 years in the U.S.? Hifter's lifelong friend Abdel Salam Badr reports only that Hifter somehow supported a large family. With the CIA mingling among the rebels, some commentators are wondering: Is Hifter a CIA plant?
Hifter is pretty clearly CIA: So a former top chief in Gadhafi's army is allowed to settle in the U.S., soon after the Lockerbie bombing, says Patrick Martin in Axis of Logic, then spends 20 years "about five miles from CIA headquarters in Langley," with no apparent job? "To those who can read between the lines," that's enough to conclude that Hifter is a CIA operative. Need more proof? "Even a cursory Internet search" ties Hifter to the CIA as far back as 1987.
"A CIA commander for the Libyan rebels"
We shouldn't be using covert operatives: There's no need for the U.S. to play games, says John Gizzi in Human Events. As Paul Wolfowitz told me, the CIA shouldn't be involved, simply because "we should be right out in the open" in our dealings with the rebels. Let's not "reinforce the notion in the Middle East that the CIA is behind everything the Americans do."
"Burning Libya question: Exactly who are Gaddafi's opponents?"
The bigger issue: Can Hifter win? He cuts something of an odd figure for a military commander, wearing "a pinstripe suit and a black turtleneck sweater" instead of battle fatigues, say Alexander Marquardt and Mark Mooney in ABC News. And he incorrectly predicted that Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte "would fall easily". Despite Hifter's status as "self-proclaimed commander of the Free Libyan Army," it isn't clear that he's actually commanding the fleeing rebel forces. The only certainty is that somebody needs to "whip his army into shape."
"Libyan rebel commander is from Fairfax, Virginia"