Col. Qaddafi after he seized power with the overthrow of the Monarchy in Libya in 1969. He is shown here with Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nassar., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Libya needs international assistance, not drone attacks
By Jason Pack, Noman Benotman and Haley Cook
02/15/13 02:30 PM ET
Two years to the day after the anti-Gadhafi uprisings began in Benghazi, the populace has again taken to the streets. This time they are protesting the new authorities failures to bring economic development and its prerequisite, security. Over the last two years, wide swathes of Libyan territory have been transformed into a non-governed space has indirectly facilitated the Islamist takeover in Mali and the attack by Al-Qaeda affiliates on Algeria’s In Amenas gas facility. If Libya is the fabled ‘gateway to Africa’, then the gate has been left wide open.
In today’s Libya, heavy artillery and extremist militants flow across the country’s porous borders with ease. Since the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Libya’s extreme east is currently being monitored by American drones in search of jihadist training camps.
Barack Obama wisely pledged in his recent State of the Union address to help Libyans “provide for their own security” including cooperation on counter-terrorism. However, should the promised “direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans” turn out to be code for conducting drone attacks on Libyan soil, then the president is on the verge of a catastrophic blunder which would irrevocably jeopardize vital American economic and strategic interests.
Libya urgently needs international assistance in building its institutions, especially the basic machinery of government and security. The Libyans have a friendly government, infinite money to spend on infrastructure projects, and they are actively soliciting Western assistance. Clearly, nation building – which the Libyans are even able and willing to fund themselves – would be far more effective than drone strikes at eliminating terrorist safe havens. It would be more cost effective as well.
The drone infrastructure
Currently, U.S. surveillance drones focus on the Islamist hot spots in Eastern Libya (Derna, Benghazi, and the Green Mountains) due to the obsession with finding the perpetrators of the attack on the American mission which killed the Ambassador. Plans for a forthcoming U.S. unarmed drone base in Niger will make it operationally feasible to employ drones against militant extremists in Libya’s southwestern region of Fezzan. This area is beginning to rival Yemen as one of the globe’s premier ungoverned spaces and a site of heavy arms trafficking. If the use of drones in Libya should gradually switch from unarmed surveillance to armed attacks it would anger the heretofore friendly Libyan populace and likely incite revenge attacks against the West. In the wake of such attacks, Libyans would likely close ranks with the extremists in their midst and refuse Western capacity building assistance, which they otherwise support.
Life in a dangerous neighborhood
Instability in the Sahel can only undermine Libyan efforts to secure its borders. In retrospect, the attack against the In Amenas facility appears to be part of a broader strategy by al-Qaeda and its affiliates against energy facilities and Western interests in North Africa. Al-Qaeda affiliates are now involved in an undeclared war with Bamako, Algiers, and Tripoli for control of the Sahel.
The French campaign has dispersed the most hardcore jihadist elements from their previous redoubts in Mali, but they are presently finding safe havens among the Sahara’s other ungoverned spaces — awaiting the appropriate moment to make their next move. February 8th’s guerilla-style suicide attack in Gao is a possible indication of the tactics that appear to be spreading.
Attacks like those at In Amenas or Gao lacked extensive preparation or a unified command and hence, even with good intelligence — they are impossible to forecast or preempt. So long as Libya’s southwestern border is an ungoverned space, it will be impossible to win a counterinsurgency campaign in the vast empty space of the Sahara. The logic of drone strikes to disturb terrorists in this area holds a certain appeal for an administration that has decimated al-Qaeda leadership in the Af-Pak region, yet it is the wrong policy choice. In the Sahel, fighting fire with fire is not the right strategy.
Only a stable and secure Libya will prevent the indefinite spread of this contagion and a likely series of attacks against North Africa’s oil installations and drone counterattacks against terrorist training camps.
Finishing what we started in Libya
A succession of various threats in Benghazi over the past month have made it quite clear that foreign diplomats, NGOs, and investors will remain at risk in Libya so long as the authorities are unable to govern outside of the capital. There is a palpable fear that the General National Congress’ February 6 decision approving the direct election of members of the constitutional assembly on a regional basis will lead towards federalism and the disintegration of the Libyan state.
These worries are coming to a head as mass anti-government demonstrations are planned in Eastern Libya for Friday, February 15 — the second anniversary of the Libyan [counter]-revolution.
If Libyans and Westerners want to see a free, open, and democratic Libya capable of being part of the community of nations and a vital engine for growth in the global economy, they cannot let Libya drift towards lawlessness and separatism. Libya’s international partners, especially the U.S., Britain, and France need to complete their commitments to support Libya in establishing the rule of law, transitional justice, and security. To this end, the major Western and Arab powers unveiled a security plan in Paris on February 12 calling for European experts to train Libyan security forces and rebuild the military. Crucially, this effort has the backing of the EU, UN, Arab League, African Union and the government of Libya.
Time to deliver on training
Until now foreign training of the Libyan army, police, and border guards has been small in scale. Most training has largely been conducted outside of Libya, in Jordan and Turkey. The U.S. for its part has discussed possible training of around 400 military special forces, but has not yet committed to firm details about the program. These positive cooperation measures are incomplete steps upon which we must rapidly build.
The new Libyan security plan announced on February 12 moves the location of training inside Libya, calling for a two-year EU border security training program using civilian trainers starting in June 2013. This plan should aid in dismantling the dysfunctional, militia-dominated Supreme Security Committee and Libya Shield Force.
However, military, police, and border security training should only form part of a broad capacity building and vocational training package urgently needed to promote a stable and secure environment. This is the best way to get needed job skills to former fighters.
Libya should be a top-tier U.S. foreign policy priority
A broad multilateral effort to prevent Libya from becoming a failed state can only succeed with the U.S. as a key and proactive partner. Ignoring or attacking Libya with drones would be a truly counterproductive policy that would worsen the devastating effects of instability in North Africa and the Sahel perpetuating the downward spiral of violence, the loss of foreign investment, and the proliferation of weapons through ungoverned spaces. Instead of drone strikes, Secretary of State John Kerry should go to Libya as part of his first Middle Eastern trip. While there, he should unveil a vast training scheme to help build a new Libyan army and provide it with on the job training in border security. America must follow through on its commitments in order to cultivate a valuable regional partner in Libya and prevent the Sahel region from becoming the next Afghanistan.
Pack is a researcher of Middle Eastern History at Cambridge University and editor of The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post Qadhafi Future (Palgrave Macmillan Forthcoming June 2013)
Benotman is a senior analyst at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank in London. He was previously a senior leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
Cook is Director of Research of Libya-Analysis.com.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/283475-libya-needs-international-assistance-not-drone-attacks#ixzz2L1x511Bp
Posted by Pan-African News Wire
Voice of Russia
February 15, 2013
Libyan-style “democracy”: two years without Gaddafi
“NATO air strikes threw the once prospering country by African standards back into the Middle Ages, and still worse, they plunged it into a civil war. The West used military force to install an obedient yet unpopular regime unable to deal with the religious and tribal feud that is tearing the country apart. Libyan oil and gas – that was the main target of NATO’s military intervention…”
Mass protests are sweeping across Libya as the country marks the second anniversary of the beginning of a civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Two years after the fall of the Gaddafi regime, no new constitution has been drafted.
The new authorities have obviously failed to maintain law and order. Crime is rampaging and popular discontent is on the rise. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has shut the borders with neighboring Egypt and Tunisia from February 14 to 18 as a security precaution.
Though the anti-Gaddafi revolt erupted on February 17, the main celebrations will take place on the 15th. Airport security is being tightened. Meanwhile, Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have suspended all flights to Libya until the 17th, citing “tensions on the grounds”. Earlier, Germany, France, Canada and other countries urged their citizens to immediately leave Benghazi over the imminent threat of terrorist attacks. Security is being tightened in the capital Tripoli and also in Benghazi where four U.S. diplomats were killed in a bloody raid on the U.S. consulate last September.
With anarchy and marauding flourishing in border areas where once strict law and order reigned under Gaddafi, most Libyans, particularly in the east, have been outraged by the authorities’ inaction. In addition to local extremists and “adventure seekers”, terrorists of all sorts, including groups of jihadists from Mali, have been pouring in. The “democracy” the West had once been so fervent in forcing upon Libya looks more like medieval rule, says Director of the Cairo-based Java Center for Political Studies Rifaat Sayed Ahmad.
“NATO air strikes threw the once prospering country by African standards back into the Middle Ages, and still worse, they plunged it into a civil war. The West used military force to install an obedient yet unpopular regime unable to deal with the religious and tribal feud that is tearing the country apart. Libyan oil and gas – that was the main target of NATO’s military intervention in the name of the noble goal of freeing ordinary Libyans from Colonel Gaddafi’s dictatorship, as one French TV program put it.”
The unhappy outcome is hardly a surprise and had been foreseen by analysts even before the intervention began, says Russian political scientist Stanislav Tarasov.
“Not just Russian analysts but Western ones as well made such forecasts. Libya is fragmented and may, in prospect, split into two or even three states. Some territories ruled by certain tribal clans have set up their own borders. In this situation, attempts by the so-called central government to adopt an all-Libyan law, a constitution accepted by all, appear to be doomed. The West which initiated the ‘Arab spring’ in Libya can offer nothing except the use of force.”
No immediate improvements should be expected though. Boris Dolgov, a senior researcher at the Center for Arabic Studies in Moscow, notes that Libya is a long way from stabilization. It is actually the hotbed of instability for the entire North Africa.
“We are witnessing a spread of radical Islamism, as in the case of Mali and Algeria. The events in Mali and Libya are closely intertwined. Gaddafi waged a war on radical extremism and kept the situation under control. More than 600 Islamists were in jails. After the fall of Gaddafi, they walked free and joined radical groups, including those operating in Mali.”
Libya today is “a territory of absolute lawlessness”, as some Arab analysts call it, or rather it’s a powder keg to which a blazing torch has already been brought.
Martyred former leader of Libya Col. Muammar Gaddafi takes former South African President Nelson Mandela on a tour of the bombed-out area where the U.S. attacked the North African state in April 1986. Twenty five years later the Gaddafi was overthrown., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The Christian Science Monitor – CSMonitor.com
NATO, US must shore up Libya
Today, as Libyans mark the second anniversary of the (counter)-revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, security conditions are bad and getting worse. Libya needs help training its security forces. Ideally, this would be a NATO mission. It could also be a US mission if NATO lacks the will.
By Christopher Chivvis / February 15, 2013 at 10:24 am EST
In the 15 months since NATO ended its intervention in Libya, little has been accomplished to secure the hard-won gains of the war, and trends are headed in the wrong direction. It’s time to go back, lest Libya’s post-war transition run off the rails.
Today, as Libyans mark the second anniversary of the start of the (counter)-revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi from power, security conditions here are bad and getting worse. There is violence in the South, major towns have been at war with each other in retribution for past deeds, and Islamic extremists are making inroads in the eastern province of Cyrenaica. Crime is on the rise. The (counter)-revolutionary street is armed and restive.
The [s]elected government is extremely disorganized and has no reliable security forces to address these problems. As it stumbles along trying to accomplish its state-building tasks, time is running out. Islamic militants, who do not represent the majority of the population, are taking advantage of the situation to increase their strength in the East. Violence and crime can easily spread. Stability would then erode and the gains won in the 2011 intervention could be wiped out.
Clearly, the last thing Libya needs is an Iraq-type occupation by outside powers.
This would be unnecessary and counterproductive, not to mention unrealistic given the current mood in Washington and other NATO capitals.
But a smaller-scale training mission to help the Libyan government build reliable forces that will answer to the country’s elected leadership would do much to help the Libyan state get control over its own territory. It would also demonstrate continued Western commitment and help increase US leverage with the Libyan government, which currently runs close to zero.
A training mission could begin on a relatively small scale. The footprint should be overt and large enough both to be meaningful to the Libyan government and protect itself from any threats. Ideally, this would be a NATO mission, given NATO’s role in [freeing] Libya from Qaddafi. It could also be a US mission if NATO lacks the will to get involved.
The European Union plans to send trainers this summer to support border security efforts. The United States should focus on training effective police and army for the central government. The objective should be to establish a prestige force soundly under the government’s control. Wages and equipment should be better than in existing brigades. Only individuals – not whole groups – should be accepted into this force.
One often hears that Libyans will not tolerate the presence of foreign forces in their homeland. In Tripoli, I found otherwise. While Libyans are proud and do harbor suspicions about the intentions of outsiders in their country, their primary concern is that the Iraq experience not be repeated.
Another argument against helping Libya is that the country is rich and ought to pay its own way. This is true in general. Libya should eventually be expected to finance its own reconstruction.
But allowing the financial costs to thwart efforts to stabilize the country now would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The current Libyan [rebel] government is too disorganized and distracted to compensate NATO for the cost of such a mission right now. If security in Libya deteriorates further, the price will be very high for all parties.
A conference in Paris Feb. 12 aimed to reorient the light-footprint approach the US and its allies adopted after the war. France re-asserted its intention to support the deployment of European experts to help Libya get its security situation under control. But when that assistance will arrive remains uncertain, and while it is welcome, it is unlikely to be enough.
The light footprint approach makes sense and could still work. But what exists now, especially in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, looks more like a no-footprint approach.
It’s time that the US takes the lead in orchestrating a modest re-engagement in securing Libya’s future.
Christopher Chivvis is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and author of “Toppling Qaddafi,” a forthcoming book on NATO’s intervention in Libya.
Posted by Pan-African News Wire