Libya agonistes

The Council on Foreign Relations yesterday issued an update of my 2011 Contingency Planning Memorandum on post-Qaddafi violence in Libya. Overdue, it is necessarily gloomy. Libya has suffered mightily since the revolution, which has degenerated into an internecine squabble with deadly consequences.

UN efforts to negotiate a solution, which faced a deadline yesterday (the start of Ramadan)  seem unlikely to succeed. Some think the UN is too beholden to the Tripoli-based government; others that it too supportive of its Tobruk rivals. No one sees a likelihood the various militias will come to terms any time soon.

Even if an agreement were to miraculously appear, implementation would be an enormous problem. In yesterday’s update, I suggested the US had to be ready to train and equip as many as 8000 Libyans, which was the intention a couple of years ago when we embarked on (and later abandoned) preparation of a General Purpose Force. But the total required to ensure a safe and secure environment in a country the size of Libya is more like 50-75,000. The European Union and Arab League should bear most of that burden. It is likely to be a long time before we see that happen.

Here are the first couple of paras of my update. You’ll have to visit CFR’s website for the rest:

The potential chaos highlighted by a 2011 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum, “Post-Qaddafi Instability in Libya,” has come to fruition. Libya today is in the midst of a civil war—one as confusing as it is ferocious. Atrocities against civilians are mounting. The collapse of the Libyan state and the country’s division is possible. This could threaten Libya’s remaining oil and gas production and spark new waves of migration to Europe and neighboring countries in North Africa.

Libya’s transitional road map fell apart in 2012, as the elected parliament and several subsequent governments failed to demobilize, disarm, and reintegrate revolutionary brigades that had fought against the Qaddafi regime. As a result, the brigades aligned with political factions and began to fight each other, killing thousands of Libyans, internally displacing about 400,000 people, and creating a refugee population of one to two million abroad.

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