Conference Report: Planning for Post-Gadhafi Libya

On July 25, CSIS convened approximately 50 experts from the government, diplomatic and expert communities to analyze the way forward in Libya. Among the key conclusions of the speakers are:

  • There is no military solution, in part because the rebels cannot take Tripoli. Some negotiation will be necessary, but a change could come any time in the next 2-3 years. The Libyan military has adjusted to its degraded condition, and defections have slowed to a trickle. While time is not on Gadhafi's side, neither is it on the allies' side, as there seem few ways to force urgency.
  • Even so, the post-Gadhafi era in Libya has already begun. The United States and its allies should talk about it that way, and all should act that way.
  • Too much money for the Transitional National Council (TNC) is as much of a problem as too little. The paucity of cash in eastern Libya has helped nurture a culture of voluntarism and broad public engagement. Too much cash at the center will likely lead to centralization and patronage.
  • The United States should not become wedded to the TNC, but should be flexible enough to accept a wide variety of outcomes. Not only were some concerned by the TNC's possible fragmentation and its disproportionate support from the East of the country, but some believed that the leadership's residence in Doha ensures that they remain removed from developments on the ground.
  • The UN enjoys some broad legitimacy in Libya, but Gadhafi in particular only cares about—and fears—the United States. One speaker suggested the allies will need a new UNSC resolution to handle the task of Libyan reconstruction.
Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program

Heather A. Conley

Robert D. Lamb and Mark Quarterman