Speakers at a discussion held Thursday at the Atlantic Council about the security challenges to Libya’s quest for democracy described the situation in Libya as complex and vague. Although they all favored reconciliation over security,some speakers said certain problems are beyond reconciliation,especially those involving extremists.
They said the U.S. has to deal with the fact that Jihadists and members of the former regime have infiltrated the Libyan security forces,which explains the growing violence in the country since last year’s revolution
Concerning the Libyan response to the crisis,they explained that the newly elected government is restricted by the magnitude of the problems left by Moamar al-Ghaddfi’s regime and that the armed groups are getting stronger beyond the government’s ability to control them. They said that the best solution would be a strong Libyan leadership that has the will to make pragmatic decisions and an effective U.S.-Libyan partnership to purge terrorists from Libya.
“The problem is some people think that in any crisis,the U.S. will roll up its sleeves,go in there and put everything back in order,then get out,like what happened in Iraq,” William Zartman,professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University,said. Zartman has specialized in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
The speakers explained that if the U.S. is seeking development in Libya,any plans should include Libyan partners,and Libyan security forces should be provided with training to combat terrorists. The speakers said it is important to emphasize the role of elder tribal leaders who have a great effect on public opinion in Libya.
Essam Omeish,director at the Libyan Emergency Taskforce warned that al-Qaida is present in Libya,has access to sophisticated weapons and and an agenda to execute.
Some of the speakers linked the latest violence to al-Qaida,saying the American ambassador was targeted and that his death was not the result of a demonstration that got out of control.
Libyan Ambassador to the U.S. Ali Suleiman Aujali said he regretted the attack. He said the cause of the attack is the lack of organization and decision-making of the security forces and that it is too early to judge who is responsible for the killings.
The speakers said the U.S. should be careful not to favor security over democracy. They said that would lead eventually to creating dictators and that the best tribute to the American ambassador’s soul is to continue his work to establish democracy and human rights in Libya.
Reach reporter Monica Ibrahim at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.