The picture at the top of this item is of Mahmud Bin Juma’a, 54. He is a Libyan, but very few people in his own country have heard of him – much less in the West, barring the controllers handling undercover ties buried in the dark labyrinthine of Libyan intelligence.
His anonymity will not prevent Mahmud Bin Juma’a from going down in the intertwined histories of Libya and NATO as the man who determined the outcome of the mid-August 2011 battle for Tripoli. By secretly turning against Muammar Qaddafi, he brought him down and forced him and his family to abandon their main power base in the capital.
What Bin Juma'a did was to open the gates of Tripoli to the British, French, Qatari and Jordanian special forces leading the rebel push and make sure they were unopposed. As the CIA's solo undercover agent, he haggled with government field commanders in the capital over terms for their consent to abstaining from resistance to the oncoming invaders. He also persuaded them to help feed false military and intelligence information to Qaddafi and his sons to keep them ignorant about what was going on and what to expect.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 506 of Aug. 26: How the CIA Stripped Qaddafi of his Tripoli Divisions by the “Waqil Massiri” Maneuver”).
Bin Juma'a was well-placed for his secret betrayal as a confidant of Qaddafi and his sons and associate of Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senoussi, who saw no reason to distrust him.
Washington's not-so-secret agent lands in Libya
He had another advantage. Ironically, he had been assigned the task of liaising with Libyan rebel military commanders and persuading them to lay down arms and discuss a ceasefire. This task enabled him to shuttle back and forth between the lines of the two warring camps without raising suspicion.
In May, he succeeded in arranging a ceasefire in the key western front towns of Misrata and Brega – but the truce was never acknowledged or accepted by either side.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 493 of May 20: The Invisible War: Libyan Rebel chiefs near Deal with Qaddafi behind NATO’s Back).
He also used his assignment to cultivate close ties with Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis, then the rebel chief of staff who maintained a forward headquarters at Brega and was later assassinated, as well as the rebel "army" commander Col. Khalifa Haftar, whom he knew as a longtime CIA collaborator.
Colonel Haftar entered Libya from Egypt in the second week of March – shortly after the eruption of the Benghazi-based revolt against Qaddafi. As a known anti-Qaddafi dissident living in exile and the center of a group of officers who had deserted from the government army, his return to Libya was not viewed with surprise.
Bin Juma’a was secretly in touch with this group. But there was no secret about Haftar's links with the United States.
On April 1, certain Washington think tanks published the following:
“Today as Colonel Haftar finally returns to the battlefields of North Africa with the objective of toppling Qaddafi, his former co-conspirator from Libya’s 1969 coup, he may stand as the best liaison for the United States and allied NATO forces in dealing with Libya’s unruly rebels.”
The CIA's long preparation for Qaddafi's ouster
Indeed, for twenty years, ever since he and his family settled in Falls Church, Virginia, the CIA has been training Haftar and his group for future roles in a post-Qaddafi Libya, strongly suggesting that the revolt against the Libyan ruler which erupted in February was far from spontaneous or even a recently-hatched venture.
Washington developed big plans for Col. Haftar quite early in his multifarious military career.
In 1986, Qaddafi put in him in charge of the Libyan army fighting in Chad. The Chadian side, benefiting from French aerial support, roundly defeated the Libyans. Haftar later escaped prison in Chad with hundreds of his troops, many of whom were brought to the United States where Hafter lived with his family for 20 years.
There, Col. Hafter established what became known as the "contra-style Libyan National Army which became the military wing of the Salvation Front for the Liberation of Libya.
In 1991, the New York Times revealed that the CIA had first trained this group of Libyan anti-Qaddafi insurgents near a base in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena.
When Qaddafi asked the new Chadian government (President Hissene Habre had meanwhile been overthrown by Idriss Deby) to hand Haftar and his men over, Chad refused, but allowed the US to move the group in 1990 to the Democratic Republic of Congo, then Zaire, where they reached a camp run by American instructors.
Jalil is worried by the competition
From there, they were moved to the US and received more training in Virginia, not far from the CIA's Langley headquarters.
A report issued by the Congressional Research Service in 1996 corroborated this information, claiming also that many LNA members stayed in America.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and counterterrorism sources, Haftar's long and close ties with the CIA were no secret to Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council. Neither the Americans nor Haftar himself concealed the relationship. On arrival in Benghazi in March, he strongly implied the Americans had sent him over at the head of a professional army which the undisciplined rebels lacked and had approved his strategic plans.
This boast may have cost the rebel commander in chief Gen. Abdel Fatah Younis his life.
NTC head Abdul-Jalil, who tends to dispose of any competition to his leadership, and Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, head the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group-LIFG, agreed that Haftar must be stopped, both as a potential rival for Jalil and an importer of American influence.
(Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj fought with Al Qaida in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, was captured by the CIA in Malaysia in 2003 and later extradited to Libya where he stayed in jail until his release in 2009 after signing a pledge to renounce terrorism and militancy.)
But as future ruler, Jalil needs Washington's endorsement
The two rebel chiefs agreed that a direct attack on Hafter would seriously alienate America and compromise rebel relations with Washington. Instead, they chose to get rid of Gen. Younis, as a more indirect means of weakening US influence in the rebel military command.
This assassination LIFG took in its stride. But then, after Tripoli dropped into rebel hands on Aug. 21 – with the help of NATO and British and French special forces, the two co-conspirators knew perfectly well they would never have won the city without the services of US agent Col. Haftar and insider Mahmud Bin Juma’a deal for thwarting government resistance.
However essential NATO's help in winning the war against Qaddafi, Abdul-Jalil and Belhadj realize that governing the country from Tripoli is a wholly different matter for which they have greater need of Washington’s logistical, intelligence and financial support than of the aid offered them by London and Paris.
The canny Abdul-Jalil may therefore be contemplating offering Haftar the job of prime minister or defense minister in the administration he hopes to set up, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources report.
By this means he would hope to gain America's stamp of approval on his government and convince Washington of his determination not to allow the Libyan revolution to be hijacked from within by the LIFG and commander, Abd Al-Hakim Belhadj, late or presently of al Qaeda.