News / Middle East

Libyans Face Escalating Violence, Turmoil

In this July 26, 2014 frame grab from video obtained from a freelance journalist traveling with the Misrata brigade, Islamist Misrata brigade fighters fire towards Tripoli airport in an attempt to wrest control from a powerful rival militia, in Tripoli, Libya.
In this July 26, 2014 frame grab from video obtained from a freelance journalist traveling with the Misrata brigade, Islamist Misrata brigade fighters fire towards Tripoli airport in an attempt to wrest control from a powerful rival militia, in Tripoli, Libya.
Mohamed Elshinnawi

Libyans had high hopes after their country’s liberation from dictatorship in 2011, but now face escalating violence and a growing humanitarian crisis.

Recent weeks of inter-militia fighting have left hundreds dead in Tripoli and Benghazi, while food, water and fuel supplies to civilians have been disrupted.

International concern

The power vacuum in Libya has resulted in the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and people across the Sahel region and provided resources, training, and recruitment opportunities for terrorists, analysts say.

And that is causing international concern.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently assured Libyan prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni of continued U.S. support.

“We intend to work very, very closely with our Libyan friends in an effort to try to help to build the capacity of the government to be able to restore stability,” Kerry said.

Thinni warned that Libya is at risk of being divided and has called for international intervention to stop the fighting or at least to protect key installations and civilian populations.

At risk 

Karim Mezran, a senior fellow at Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said the risk is real.

“The violence gripping Libya is due to a political struggle between groups that could broadly be characterized as Islamists and anti-Islamists,” he said. “As Libya urgently needs help from its allies, most countries, including the United States, are evacuating their embassies or drastically downsizing.”

A collapsed criminal evidence building after an attack by Islamic hard-line militias in Benghazi, Libya, Aug. 1, 2014.
A collapsed criminal evidence building after an attack by Islamic hard-line militias in Benghazi, Libya, Aug. 1, 2014.

Mezran said that Libya’s allies wish to mediate a solution to the conflict, they must maintain contact with Libya’s major political actors — the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Forces Alliance, and the leaders of the warring militias from Misrata and Zintan.

He said neither the “Islamist” nor the “anti-Islamist” forces seem capable of winning a quick or conclusive victory over the other.

“Only a mediation process, aligned with the new parliament and a new constitutional settlement, and backed by the international community, offers any prospect of breaking the cycle of fear and violence in Libya,” Mezran said.

Military intervention?

Mezran said the U.S. and the European Union should consider a threat of limited military intervention to force the warring sides to accept a ceasefire.

“The United States and its allies have strategic interests in ensuring that Libya does not collapse back into civil war or become a haven for al-Qaida or other terrorist groups within striking distance of Europe,” Mezran said.

Still, Mezran said there is not much interest in Western capitals for a military response.

Libyan foreign minister, Mohamed Abdulaziz, has asked for “trainers” to support the weak Libyan security forces.

The United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Turkey have announced plans to train abroad 15,000 to 18,000 security personnel and former members of militias for a “General Purpose Force” whose members would join the Libyan military after an approximately six-month training cycle.

Ambassador David Mack, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, said the United States is honoring its agreement to provide such needed training.

“The U.S. is playing an active role in helping the Libyan government establishing security; training Libyan security personnel, and having discussions with Libyan officials on how to support institution building,” Mack said.

Political consensus

But Mack said that it is up to Libyans to reach a political consensus regarding what kind of future they want and said that there is a limit to what the U.S. can do in the Middle East and Africa post-Arab spring.

“The U.S. does not have a magic formula for democracy, it can provide a certain amount of assistance, but ultimately a lot of the hard political decisions have to be taken by the countries themselves,” Mack said.

Each Arab Spring country has its own circumstances, he said. While Libya is suffering from an absence of institutions after so many years of one-man rule, Mack said, institutions in Egypt were overwhelmed by one institution - the strong military.

But Mezran said that the U.S. and the international community must act in Libya because tensions may spiral quickly.

“Both the U.S. and the international community should have a contingency plan if the situation in Libya continues to deteriorate,” he said.

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by: writt1 from: USA
August 18, 2014 2:00 AM
The US Dept. of State posted a condemnation of violence in Libya on its website about a week ago. One sentence reads, "Violence cannot and must not be a means to achieve political goals or settle ideological differences." The US State Dept. is completely disingenuous. Our government lies to us. The US promotes and uses violence in Libya. It bombed the Libyan government into the dust in 2011. The US may not plan to do so, but it makes Islamic extremist more extreme. Just consider Fallujah. Donald Rumsfeld ordered the destruction of Fallujah in 2004. Marines who went into Fallujah say that 5,000 women and children died in Fallujah. Thousands of out veterans have PTSD. 22 of our veterans commit suicide every day. The brutal attack on Fallujah killed Iraqi Sunni residents and some foreign insurgents, who entered Iraq because of the US invasion. The Islamic State is mostly Sunni. Violence begets violence.

by: Faouzi from: Ireland
August 17, 2014 9:30 PM
I beleive steps were'nt taken by the US and allies to support the right of kind of people such as civil society,the army,police and other institutions that make society function. Instead Abd Aljalil the former president of NTC made sure the extremist-islamist got financial and logistical support in the begining of revoltion under the banner of "Sharia law or death", and from then on everthing was acheived by the barel of a gun starting with the taking hostage of foreign affairs ministry and justic ministry in 2013 to force the political isolation law while the GNC was terrorized by thug frenzy behavior. This became the basis of how things get done and how people get paid...complete pandimonium. Now that the people of Libya voted for new parliment and islamist lost , the same tactics are being used by these same extremist under the name "fajr libya" and being the bad sports they usual are, they are litteraly tearing tripoli apart, while in the east in Benghazi Ansar sharia(mind you the very group behind the attack on US consul in sep2012) are saying without fear or reservation that they are against democracy and the usual "we hate the west!" rhetoric and claim Benghazi is an Islamic emirate. Conclusion: Nato and allies havent finished job yet , and the world should make a clear standing with regards to why they supported the Libya intervention and support the democratic new parliments decisions , and get rid of these alqaeda elements. If this is alowed to continue these terrorists will have tens of billions and a whole state under them, with Libya s location this really could end up to be a deadly cocktail.
Libyas only hope are the new parliment ,operation Karama, and the international community standing behind human rights and democracy.

by: meanbill from: USA
August 17, 2014 11:34 AM
AFTER the US led the air attack with NATO and a few Muslim Gulf monarchies, on Libya and destroyed the country, and killed Qaddafi in 2011...

US President Barack Obama "quote" said it;.. "We've protected thousands of people in Libya; we have not seen a single US casualty; (there's no risks of additional escalation). This operation is limited in time and in scope.".. (and then).. Obama also "quote" said;.. "Qaddafi is dead, and the world is a safer place."..... (How naïve was Obama, when he "quote" said those stupid things?)...

The whole Islamic world is erupting in chaos, violence, destruction, killings, and wars that keep going on and on, (and America is led by Obama), who's interference in the Islamic countries politics is causing all of it, and who hasn't got a clue on what he's doing, or what he's causing, or what to do about solving all the problems he's caused.... Obama "quote" said it;.. "Bin Laden is dead, and the world is a safer place."...... IS IT?

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