Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ongoing Skepticism in Libya: Part II

     Yesterday, this blog outlined and identified the current situation in Libya and why it still poses a risk to the United States' security.  Now it will look at how the United States has combated this problem in the past (in Libya and elsewhere) as well as what the United States can do in the future to enable the Libyan government to rid the region of dangerous militants.

     It is well established that the United States' primary tools for fighting the War on Terror are drones and Special Forces.  Both have been marginally effective but they have also been highly scrutinized.  The United States' drone campaign in Libya has been somewhat limited compared to other regions.  Although it is unclear how active the Libyan drone campaign is currently, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported back in 2012 that US and NATO forces had conducted 105 drone strikes between April and September of 2011. Those strikes occurred during the joint efforts to oust leader Mommar Gadhafi.  Reports have surfaced, however, indicating the US requested permission from Libyan officials whom denied the inquiry.   

     The capture of militant Abu Anas al-Libi last fall suggested to many policy insiders that the Obama administration was shifting away from the drone campaign overall and would begin to utilize Special Forces to capture wanted men.  As many in the industry state, "dead men tell no tales" and much can be gained by capturing and interrogating terrorists.  Special Forces in the past have proven their worth but with recent budget cuts, continued efforts are in question.  Admiral William McRaven, U.S. Special Operations Command, understandably holds Special Forces in high esteem.  In his Congressional testimony last week, he stated of the situation in Afghanistan, "If we do go to zero, and there is no special operations component left in Afghanistan, it will certainly make it more difficult to be able to deal with the threat, ...and the potential resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the area."

     While the situation in Libya is somewhat different, the US military contends that Special Forces play an integral role in combating terrorism.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel believes the US military must evolve in order to deal with modern warfare, which, among other reasons, is why he is proposing the military downsizing.  Al-Qaeda is evolving and US efforts must reciprocate this evolution.  As part of this evolution, the military is attempting to focus on smaller, more specialized forces (not to be confused with Special Forces.)

     In written testimony for a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing last November, Dr. Frederic Wehrey, Senior Associate in the Middle East Program Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated, "Much of Libya’s worsening crisis stems from the power and autonomy of the country’s roughly 300 militias. Lacking its own police and army, the transitional government in late 2011 and 2012, cut a deal with these militias, putting them on the payroll of the Ministries of Defense and Interior."  Wehrey went on to outline potential plans for future foreign assistance to the Libyan government and army.  He suggested three key areas, which must be addressed; 1) a properly identified force focusing on boarder security to keep arms and narcotics out of Libya; 2) the force must be "professional" as to not fall subject to privatization or become loyal to warlords as well as comprise of Libyans rather than a western identity and; 3) a rigorous training and reintegration program to lure militants away from jihad and place them back into the workforce.

      Wehrey's last option is an important method being utilized by governance officials around war torn regions.  Many join jihadist factions because the economic prospects in their country or tribe are not dependable.  Militias provide structure, security, and stability.  It is important to establish an economically sound society to which individuals can contribute so they do not feel compelled or forced into dangerous alternatives.

     Governance is one of the most important aspects of security.  While militaristic efforts can dispel factions in certain regions, jihadist groups will continue to sprout up.  When the government is secure and able enough to not depend on certain militias for security and not fear crossing these dangerous groups, overall security will improve.

     The United States still maintains diplomatic relations with Libya with an embassy in Tripoli.  Diplomacy in the region is of the utmost importance to the US given the recent tragedy in the Special Mission in Benghazi.  Touching briefly on this controversial matter, while establishing a Special Mission in Benghazi was important not only to the United States but the world, officials (including Ambassador Chris Stevens) entered too soon.  The Special Mission did not meet certain protocols as outlined by the Inman Report for embassy security (these standards saved the lives of those in the Cairo Embassy in attacks days after the tragedy in Benghazi) and the region was not stable enough at the time of entry.

     Controversy and pending investigations aside, Libya is very important to overall global security yet it is hardly reported on by the media anymore.  It is important to point out that, the Atlantic did put out this week a feature piece by Dr. Frederic Wehrey regarding a recent trip he took to the area and the ongoing violence and instability associated with rival terrorist groups such as Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda.  Security in Libya could lead to security elsewhere in the region, however, force is not the sole method of achieving success.  Governance and ultimately responsibility of the Libyan state are what is going to bring forth security.  This is not to say the United States, NATO, and other human rights groups cannot play a major role, but after threats are quelled through adequate military force, the US must make room for humanitarian efforts to provide a vision of governance.  While global actors can provide the necessary resources, the final burden lies on Libya to ensure their fate. 

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