Since the fall of the late leader Gaddafi's regime in 2011, Libya has been plagued by insecurity and political division between eastern and western authorities. A deal brokered by the UN in December 2015 was to create a unity government and to heal the division in Libya.
Since October 2017, the Egyptian capital Cairo has hosted four extended meetings for a number of Libyan military officers to unite the national army. The Egyptian committee on Libya, headed by the Egyptian deputy defense minister General Mohammed al-Kashki, called on all parties later last year to support the unification, restructuring, and organization of the Libyan military establishment. Libyan UN-backed prime minister, Fayez Serraj, agreed with the eastern-based army Commander Khalifa Haftar, during two meetings in May and July 2017 in United Arab Emirates and France, to develop a strategy for a unified Libyan army under civilian authority.
During the 19 September 2017 meeting, they committed to establish a modern democratic civil state based on the principles of transferring power peacefully, accepting other, and rejecting the marginalization and exclusion of any of Libya’s parties. Among the principles they pledged to follow are working on the unity of the Libyan army, shouldering the responsibility to maintain the state’s security and sovereignty, combating all forms of terrorism and extremism, rejecting any foreign interference in their affairs and seizing intellectual, ideological and regional conflicts. Libya's eastern-based army spokesman Ahmad Mismari said 14 February 2018 that an agreement will be signed soon to unify the military establishment in Libya under Egyptian auspices. "The meetings to unify the military establishment will continue tomorrow in Cairo, to complete the final consultations in particular," Mismari said in a press conference in Benghazi, eastern Libya. "We have agreed on most of the items related to the structure and unification of the military establishment in all Libya. We agreed on the structure and formation of defense and national security councils and the general command," Mismari said, adding that the Egyptian-brokered agreement would be signed soon. Mismari also noted that the only obstacle to be discussed is related to the ongoing political division, expecting all remaining points to be terminated.
Building an effective national defence force has proven to be a difficult endeavor, given issues of marginalization and operational deficiencies during the four decades of the Qadhafi regime. The establishment of a “new”, professional and apolitical defence force is a key requirement for internal and border security and for progress to be made on disarmament, de mobilization and reintegration initiatives.
The security situation remains precarious and continues to be the predominant concern for the Libyan authorities and people. The need to restore security to enable effective governance, establish democratic institutions and promote national development has been reiterated in numerous statements of the General National Congress and the Government, as well as civil society. The Government has identified a number of national security priorities, including the need to enhance border security in the south, resolve security problems in Benghazi and integrate revolutionary fighters into the security forces or reintegrate them into civilian life.
Central to the Government’s ability to address these challenges in the immediate and longer term is the establishment of proper national security coordination mechanisms and the effective reform and development of the Libyan Armed Forces and the Libyan Police Service and the development of capable institutions responsible for their democratic management, accountability and oversight.
Libyan authorities have begun to consider the development of appropriate capacities in the areas of security sector architecture and coordination. With the support of UNSMIL, the Government articulated immediate and longer-term national priorities for security sector reform, transitional justice and the rule of law, for the development of terms of reference of a national security council and for General National Congress committees on national security, defense and police. By outlining its priorities in those areas, the Government intended to ensure that the international community allocates its support to areas with the greatest need for security, as defined by Libya.
Despite the high priority the Government has accorded to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration [DDR], actual progress has been slow. Uncertainty regarding many programmes devised by the Warriors’ Affairs Commission for Rehabilitation and Development still remains. A programme of limited disarmament commenced under the auspices of the Office of the Chief of General Staff, but results were modest, and there was no clear understanding of control and/or destruction arrangements for returned weapons and ammunition.
Because of the lack of operational capability in the defense and police forces, revolutionary brigades have continued to play a key role in providing security, including by performing specific duties mandated by the Government. Groups of revolutionary fighters have joined the semi-official military and security structures, such as Libya Shield, the National Mobile Force and the Supreme Security Committee, while some have returned to civilian life. Notwithstanding progress by the Ministries of Defence and Interior to integrate these revolutionary fighters or reintegrate them into civilian life, a considerable number of revolutionary fighters are not willing to surrender their weapons to State authorities and be absorbed into official State security structures or resume civilian life. Progress in the identification of employment opportunities and social and medical support for these fighters is essential.
The Government of Libya has taken some important decisions and actions towards rebuilding the defence sector. In December 2012, the entity responsible for guarding the borders, petroleum facilities and critical infrastructure was formally placed under the authorit y of the Ministry of Defense and the command of the Chief of General Staff. Efforts were being made to exercise greater command and control over the existing semi-official security structures of the revolutionary forces, with the first individual elements receiving condensed basic training before deploying to bolster the regular army.
With UNSMIL support, the Government made significant progress towards developing a defence white paper outlining a national strategy. Extensive consultations were held across the country with relevant Government, military and civilian actors, as well as with revolutionary fighters. The exercise helped to integrate previously disparate elements of defence sector needs and priorities and provided the authorities an opportunity to consult with wider Libyan society.
Related to the defence white paper project, UNSMIL assisted in two important Libyan Armed Forces activities: a workshop in October that considered critical issues of the size and structure of the army, higher defence relationships and securing the border, followed in November by a three-day workshop on a new and smarter army.
While Libya developed its long-term strategy, UNSMIL is also assisting the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the Chief of General Staff to identify and implement immediate practical initiatives. UNSMIL is facilitating the provision of embedded experts in military education and training, personnel and pension reform, defence legislation and regulations and communications strategy. In those areas, UNSMIL is working collaboratively with key national interlocutors and international supporters, notably through the international defence working group, which met on a monthly basis to enhance international coordination for defence sector reform.
The continuing weak state of security sector institutions, coupled with the lack of effective national security coordination, comes at a time when security incidents throughout the country, have grown in number and scale. Progress on Libya’s plans agreed at the International Ministerial Conference in Paris in February this year has stalled, in part because of the political crisis that ensued since. Inter-ministerial coordination on national security architecture struggled to show meaningful dividends.
In April 2013, UNSMIL presented ‘Towards a Defense White Paper’ to the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff for their consideration. This joint effort by the Ministry of Defense, the Libyan Armed Forces and UNSMIL, includes 52 recommendations for a future Libyan defense strategy, and 18 immediate priorities.
On 05 August 2013 the country’s new Minister of Defence, Abdullah Al-Thinni, was sworn in before the General National Congress (GNC). The position had been vacant since previous Defence Minister Mohammed Barghathi was sacked towards the end of June, following widespread dissatisfaction with his responses to increased violence and killings in the country. Thinni had graduated from military college in 1976 and then fought in the Libyan-Egyptian war while stationed in Tobruk. Thinni was also a professor at the military college for seven years. However, after his brother – an Air Force pilot – absconded to Egypt in a military plane in opposition to the Qaddafi regime, things became more difficult for Thinni. He served time in prison because of his brother’s escape and faced other difficulties, until 1997 when he took early retirement.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|