International Assistance to the New Libya
November 1, 2011
With the death of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the decimation of his security apparatus, and the election of Prime Minister Abdurraheem el-Keib, Libya is poised to move to a new chapter in its political life. The Transitional National Council (TNC) proved quite effective in running Benghazi and other cities, but restoring public order and essential services in Tripoli and the rest of the country, as well as providing humanitarian relief in regions that experienced the heaviest fighting, remain immediate concerns for the el-Keib government. Building effective political and judicial systems loom as enormous, long-term challenges. Some international assistance will be needed and has been welcomed by the TNC.
The scope of possible assistance has been discussed with the TNC at several meetings of the “Libya Contact Group” over the past four months. The Contact Group includes the representatives of 28 countries and 7 international organizations. At a July meeting in London, the Contact Group endorsed the guidelines for a process of a post-Qaddafi transition in Libya. The overarching principle is that the transition should be Libyan-led and build on a detailed roadmap developed by the TNC. On the basis of these discussions, the UN Security Council members agreed on September 17 to create a UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for an initial period of three months to help restore public security, national reconciliation, reconstruction efforts, and development of governance—including drafting a new constitution and planning for elections. UK diplomat Ian Martin was named by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to head the mission and to be the United Nations’ new special representative to Tripoli. Martin has been coordinating the work of UN political and relief agencies in Libya since September, and the mission, which has already deployed in country about 36 international experts in priority areas, is slated ultimately to comprise over 200 international and national staff.
Restoring basic security for people to go about their daily lives is the first priority of any post-conflict transition. As in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, one concern has been the prospect of a continued insurgency by forces loyal to Qaddafi. Shortly after Qaddafi’s death, TNC chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil called on NATO to maintain its air patrols over the country through the end of 2011 as the TNC continues to assess its security needs. Abdel-Jalil said the TNC wants to ensure that remnants of regime forces are unable to regroup, and that NATO air operations could stop the flow of arms into neighboring countries that might be used in a counter-revolution. However, most international leaders agreed with the assessment of NATO military commanders that the threat of organized attacks from remnants of the Qaddafi regime had been all but eliminated with the destruction of 5,900 military targets—including more than 1,000 tanks, vehicles, and guns—as well as the regime’s command and control network. Moreover, members of the Security Council felt that the mandate of the council’s earlier resolutions authorizing the use of “all necessary means” to protect civilians had been accomplished, and any further security assistance from the international community should be negotiated separately. The Security Council then agreed to terminate the mandate of NATO’s Operation Unified Protector effective at the end of October.
While the risk of an insurgency by Qaddafi loyalists appears low, several significant threats to Libyan and international security persist.
- The flow of weapons from Qaddafi’s forces that were removed from state control during the revolution into the international black arms market could result in transfers to terrorists and various insurgent groups. Teams of U.S. and UK experts have been working with Libyan authorities since September to track down weapons of concern, particularly man-portable air defense systems (Manpads), which could pose a threat to civil aviation around the world. More than 800 bunkers across Libya have been inspected so far, according to a UK Ministry of Defense spokesman. The UN special representative in Libya recently reported that TNC forces appear to have control of sites with chemical weapons and nuclear material, but that centralized command and control remained a concern, and that additional, previously undeclared chemical weapons or materials had been discovered.
- Unifying and disarming the various militias that fought to remove Qaddafi will be a major requirement of internal stability. This process will involve difficult political struggles complicated by regional and tribal differences. International advice and technical support, drawing on lessons of previous stabilization missions, could be helpful to this element of the process of national reconciliation.
- A new Libyan armed forces can emerge from the militias that fought the Qaddafi regime and the re-training and re-integration of elements of the former regime’s forces, particularly from the mid- and lower-level ranks. But as one militia leader noted, this will not happen as the result of a governmental decree. It will also be the outcome of a power struggle. NATO members and other countries in the region can, and seem prepared to, support this aspect of defense and security sector reform. NATO has undertaken similar missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- International assistance will also be helpful in developing new police and security services. Members of the previous security services have lost credibility given their use as instruments of Qaddafi’s repression. New cadres will need to be developed, but some experienced officers can be vetted and retrained to serve the new government of Libya. This is an area where the European Union, as well as its member governments, and the United States could offer training programs and technical support.
- It will also be important to long-term reconciliation to avoid retribution killings of those who served Qaddafi. As it builds a new government and security apparatus, the TNC will also need a process to vet and rehabilitate people who served Qaddafi but whose talents will be needed to build the new Libya. TNC leaders have stated that there will be an effort to foster reconciliation with those who served the Qaddafi regime so long as they are not guilty of criminal acts.
The Contact Group agreed on the need to empower the TNC with the legal, political, and financial means necessary to form an interim government of Libya.
A major priority in facilitating the transition is to accelerate release of the overseas assets of the Qaddafi government that were frozen by both UN Security Council resolutions and unilateral measures taken by the United States and other governments. Those assets are estimated to total between $100 billion and $150 billion in property and cash around the world, about $30 billion of which are in the Unites States (only 10 percent of which is cash). With backing from the U.S. and other governments, the UN Sanctions Committee agreed in early September to authorize release to the TNC of $1.5 billion of assets frozen in the United States and $1.6 billion in the United Kingdom. Of the U.S. funds to be released, about a third are to be used for support of international humanitarian organizations and a UN humanitarian appeal, $500 million will go to private companies to pay the TNC’s nonmilitary fuel bills, and $500 million is earmarked for a fund set up by Contact Group donor nations for the TNC’s most urgent needs. The Obama administration has said it is committed to continuing to release funds gradually, while demanding transparency and accountability from the Libyan authorities on their expenditure. The TNC had also indicated some willingness to reimburse the United States for the roughly $1.2 billion in costs it incurred in military operations to protect the Libyan people.
One area where the TNC has welcomed international help is humanitarian assistance. Over 860,000 people have left Libya since the fighting began in February, and the revolution has created thousands of internally displaced persons. Humanitarian needs are great throughout the country, particularly in cities that experienced the heaviest fighting, such as Misrata, Bani Walid, and Sirte. Most refugees from Libya fled to neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, which kept their borders open during the revolution, and thousands are still stuck in refugee camps along the border. The Qaddafi regime forced thousands of guest workers from sub-Saharan Africa onto boats and sent them across the Mediterranean to create a refugee crisis in Italy and other northern littoral countries. Many of these refugees died in transit, and many remain detained in Italy and France or stranded in camps along the Libyan borders. European governments are anxious to repatriate these refugees as soon as possible, but fears for their safety persist. International and various national relief agencies are working to address the needs of people who are suffering.
Maintaining civil order and establishing the rule of law will be essential tasks for the new el-Keib government. One of the early areas of assistance provided by the Contact Group was to support the reestablishment of a civilian security presence on the streets to strengthen the capability of the TNC police to provide security in the areas then under their control.
After nearly eight months of armed conflict, the infrastructure of many Libyan cities is in a poor state. Restoring essential services including power, water, telephone and telecommunications, health care, and the banking system are top priorities. There is also a pressing need to clean up ordinance and rehabilitate housing for returning residents.
Getting oil production and exports back to prerevolutionary levels is another important priority. The Qaddafi regime reported that exports from state-owned energy companies provided about $32 billion of revenues in 2010—about 92 percent of Libya’s overall revenues. Oil and gas exports could again be a major source of governmental funding. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa with an estimated annual production of 1.69 million barrels/day (mbd). Of this, nearly 1.49 mbd was exported mostly to European countries, with southern European countries being the main recipients. Libyan crude is much in demand for it is of a very high quality with low sulphur content. Some of the oil pipelines and other critical infrastructure were damaged during the conflict and will need to be repaired. It will take some time to assess the state of the energy infrastructure and get production back to capacity, and control of those enormous assets will be another element of political struggle. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are ready to work with Libyan authorities to assess the country’s public finances and may be asked to provide some bridge loans to finance the new government’s operations and reconstruction efforts until such revenue sources are restored.
The TNC has set a demanding timetable for political transformation. Prime Minister el-Keib is now in the process of forming an interim government. The next goal is adoption of electoral legislation and establishment of an electoral management body in 90 days. Within 240 days, the TNC hopes to hold elections for a National Congress to give democratic legitimacy to a new government and a body that would oversee drafting of a new constitution. Mahmoud Jibril, the head the TNC Executive Committee, recently called for accelerating this timetable, arguing that a power vacuum could emerge if the country waits until June 2012 to elect a legislature and begin drafting a constitution. The idiosyncratic and authoritarian nature of Qaddafi’s “People’s Committees of the Jamahiriya” provides little basis for forming a representative and responsive new government. These efforts, along with organizing political parties, will require considerable international assistance, and the United States, European governments, and a variety of nongovernmental organizations have considerable experience in supporting political transformations that can be brought to bear.
A “Friends of Libya” group—to be cochaired by the interim Libyan authorities and either UN secretary general Ban or Ian Martin, the head of UNSMIL—will meet periodically in Tripoli, the capital, to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts. Having helped to create the conditions for a new Libya, it is incumbent on the United States and others in the international community to help the Libyan people realize security, more effective and just governance, and the rule of law.
Stephen Flanagan is Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Diplomacy and National Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
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© 2011 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.