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Libya’s rebel army ends its US lobbying amid battlefield defeats

Libya’s rebel army has ended its US lobbying following a string of battlefield defeats.

Linden Government Solutions terminated its registration on behalf of Khalifa Haftar‘s self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA) effective June 19, according to a new Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) filing. Linden told Foreign Lobby Report on Thursday that it is in the process of also terminating a duplicate registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The Decision Support Center of Libya the LNA’s diplomatic wing hired Houston-based Linden in May 2019 amid mixed messages from the Donald Trump administration over its support for Tripoli. The contract was for $2 million until June 16, with an option to renew.

“Basically the contract expired and the situation there is such that they’re focused on more serious issues right now,” said Executive Vice President Joseph Fleming. “We didn’t end up continuing to engage due to the ongoing situation there.”

The Linden team had previous experience in the country, with Linden President Stephen Payne and General Counsel Brian Ettinger leading a mission to Libya in April of 2011 to present then-leader Muammar Ghaddafi to step down and hold elections. They had hoped to persuade Trump to back Haftar after the president praised the Libyan commander’s “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources,” according to a White House readout of an April call between the two men.

“After having been in communication with Field Marshall Haftar for the past five years, and most recently meeting him in Benghazi, I knew we were on the right side of history,” Payne said in a statement at the time of the registration. “The Field Marshall is dedicated to stabilizing Libya, eradicating ISIS and al-Qaeda, and ensuring free and fair elections for the first time in almost a decade.”

The lobbying effort showed early signs of promise.

Back in July, with the LNA in control of much of the country’s oil resources, lobbyists for the firm met with several federal officials including National Security Council Director of Energy Landon Derentz (now the director of Middle Eastern and African Affairs at the Energy Department) and Energy Department officials Joseph Uddo and Vincent Trovato. They also met with lawmakers from energy-rich states: Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) and Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.).

The Tripoli-based Government of National Affairs however ran its own counter-lobbying campaign. The office of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj hired Mercury Public Affairs in April 2019 for $2 million to lobby Congress and the executive branch. That contract remains active.

Meanwhile Turkey’s intervention on the side of Tripoli starting in January have sent Haftar’s forces reeling. The LNA in turn has sought help from Russia and its mercenaries, infuriating the US military. And earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US and other powers are investigating Haftar’s alleged efforts to raise funds for his military campaign through oil deals, “including with Emirati brokers and Venezuela.”

Linden’s LDA filings indicate the firm was only paid $750,000 prior to termination, with the most recent payment coming last fall (FARA filings say $500,000 was paid). The firm’s contacts with Congress and the Trump administration have also dried up since last summer.