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Libyan Army Modernization

A major security challenge confronting Libya and the international community is the threat posed by the proliferation of arms and related material, and its potential impact on regional and international peace and security. Of particular concern are existing and newly discovered stockpiles of chemical weapons and man-portable surface-to-air missiles, known as man-portable air defence systems.

Libya had accumulated the largest known stockpile of man-portable defence systems outside those countries that produce such systems. Although thousands were destroyed during the seven-month NATO operations, there were concerns about the looting and likely proliferation of these portable defence systems, as well as munitions and mines, and about the potential risk to local and regional stability. Collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and international partners has led to the dismantling of large numbers of man-portable defence system sites across the country, particularly in the west. However, there were hundreds more suspected sites that remain to be inspected as of late 2011.

The adoption of a comprehensive two-way arms embargo in 2011 notwithstanding, arms have been illicitly transferred to and from Libya on a regular basis. During the revolution, intensive arms trafficking into Libya was recorded, followed in the aftermath by the proliferation of materiel from Libya throughout the region and the consolidation of stockpiles by Libyan militias with the support of patrons within government institutions. The September 2011 kidnapping of Army Commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade in Benghazi Colonel Hamed Belkhir by armed groups was said to have had to do with differences over projects to buy wheeled armored vehicles among field commanders. The Libyan Defence Ministry was going on with contacts on projects to buy new armored vehicles or rehabilitate the existing armored vehicles. Contacts underway with Russia and Ukraine and Libyan planned to buy US-made mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles. By May 2012 the Libyan Defence Ministry was said to be holding contacts with each of Russia and Ukraine to buy wheeled and tracked armored personnel carriers (APCs) for the Libyan Armed Forces.

In August 2012, the United Arab Emirates approved the export to Tripoli of armoured personnel carriers produced by Streit Group, listing the Libyan Ministry of Interior as the end user. Since the revolution, the United Arab Emirates provided political and military support to Zintani groups. In 2013, the Sawaiq brigade from Zintan, led by Imad Trabulsi, received materiel, including Nimr armoured personnel carriers, AR-M9F assault rifles and uniforms.

By the end of August 2012 the Libyan military authorities decided to move the artillery depot from the Souk ElAhad military base in Tarhounah to a secured undisclosed area. This decision was taken after a series of skirmishes that happened around the base between rival armed groups fighting in order to take over the depot and supply the illegal arms market. Equipment moved included Libyan Army 2S1 Gvozdika and a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series technical armed with a ZU-23-2, a handful of Palmaria SPGs, 152mm SpGH DANA, RM-70 MRL, M-46 130 mm guns, BM-11 mounted on Isuzu TW truck, 1v13 Artillery Observation vehicles, a Scud-B MAZ-543 (9P117) Launcher, a number of BM-21 MRLs and an MT-LB.

Italy announced on February 6, 2013 giving Libya 20 Puma AFVs during a press conference held by the Libyan and Italian defense minister. The new Libyan Army up-armored NIMR II arrived in Libya on January 30, 2013 and were featured a presentation parade in Tripoli, Libya on February 9, 2013. Graduation Day at the 204 Tank Battalion in late April 2013 featured Libyan Army vehicles, including three T-72s, three T-55s, a 9P122 Malyutka, three BMP-1s, an M113, an M106 with 90mm DEFA D921 gun H90 turret [which previously equipped a Cascavel II vehicle], an M106 with BPU-1 turret [which previously equipped a BTR-60PB vehicle], BTR-60PBs and a Safir light utility vehicle leading three BRDM-2s of Katiba 204.

In March 2013 the command of the recently-established Protection and Defence Forces (PDF) at the Libyan Army was said to have plans to buy 4x4 wheeled armored vehicles. Italy is said to have managed to keep Qatar out of competition on projects to supply the Libyan Army with light armored vehicles (LAVs), while the competition continued between both countries on projects to buy armored vehicles in favor of the Libyan Interior Ministry. Libyan PM Ali Zeidan, who paid a visit to Doha, is said to have discussed with Emir Hamad of Qatar the project to set up a Libyan mobile security force to protect the diplomatic and international missions in Libya.

In July 2013, Belarus submitted a notification regarding more than 3,000 tons of ammunition for small arms and light weapons and machine guns for the Ministry of Defence, including 10 million rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition, 15 million rounds of 7.62x54mmR ammunition, 7.2 million rounds of 12.7x108mm ammunition, 4.25 million rounds of 14.5x114mm ammunition and 3 million rounds of 23mm ammunition. The end-user certificate was signed by Khaled Alsharif and the deal was brokered by Slobodan Teic through Charso Limited. Parts of the materiel notified by Belarus have not only been diverted upon arrival at Tripoli International Airport by brigades controlling it, but some of the deliveries appear to have been made directly to autonomous armed groups.

On September 29, 2013, the Libyan Army took official delivery of 10 more 9P157-2 Khrizantema-S vehicles. The Libyan Air Defense Battalion 503 brought back life to its former M53/59 Praga PLDvK vz. 53/59 Jeterka self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicle [unarmed]. The Libyan Mobile National Force has a fleet of dozens of Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ75 & HZJ79 technicals, some in a camouflage paint scheme, and others plain tan, armed with ZPU-1, ZPU-2 & ZPU-4, or M40 106mm recoilless rifle. The Libyan Mobile National Force also have Bravia Chaimites armed with an ATGM turret, probably 9M113 Konkurs or an MRL, Toyota Tundra w/ZPU-2, and Jeep TJL w/M40 106mm recoilless rifle. Libyan Air Defense Forces Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ79 technical are armed with Strelets Igla-S manpads.

Since the launch of Operation Karamah and Operation Fajr in 2014, the resumption of serious fighting in various parts of the country and the rise of ISIL, there has been a clear increase in demand for materiel in Libya and a revival of external support. Trafficking networks, including Libyan nationals and foreign brokering companies, are actively seeking to secure arms deals on behalf of various State and non-State parties. The proliferation of arms and ammunition from Libya continued, fuelling insecurity in the immediate region.

Following the acute deterioration of the security situation in mid-2014, the Security Council strengthened the arms embargo by replacing the notification procedure with an exemption procedure for transfers of lethal equipment to the Government (see resolution 2174 (2014)).

On 04 March 2015, Libyas UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi asked the Security Council to lift the arms embargo imposed against the country in 2011. Libya requested the approval of the UN Security Council for an exemption to the delivery of weapons, including 150 tanks, 150 personnel carriers mounted with machine guns, 10,000 automatic grenade launchers, and 1,000 sniper rifles along with ammunition and mortar shells. Spain asked that the request be put on hold. Britain, France, Chile, Lithuania, New Zealand and the United States backed the request. The request was put on hold.

In 2015, the UN Panel was provided with an end-user certificate from the Ministry of Defence of the National Salvation Government, which mentioned the Prime Minister of the National Salvation Government, Khalifah Ghwel, for a significant quantity of small arms, light weapons and related ammunition. According to the document, the ammunition was to be supplied by a company based in Turkey. The Panel contacted Turkey, which responded that the certificate was questionable and that it had contacted the representative of the company. The representative had explained that some individuals, who had introduced themselves as representatives of the Libyan Government, had approached his company to propose deals in Libya.

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Page last modified: 12-03-2016 19:26:03 ZULU