Greater coordination needed on Libya

03 March 2015

Miscalculations by Europe and the US have led to anarchy in North Africa

Lack of foresight and miscalculations by Europe and the US have turned Libya into an ungovernable territory that lies just a short distance from the shores of southern Europe. The country is also now home to at least three towns and cities where territory is controlled by the Jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis).

In 2011, Nato intervention turned the tables against the forces of Muammar Gaddafi providing a no-fly zone and bombing raids on strategic targets controlled by the regime – helping a rebel force that was outgunned and mostly untrained win against a disciplined army.

Afterwards, there were promises of assistance in rebuilding the country, but the follow-through on these pledges was disappointing.

After years of bad management under Gaddafi, underinvestment in key institutions and the destructive disorder of the country’s revolution the rebels were in dire need of guidance and support from the countries that helped it win the war.

At the top of the list of priorities for all stakeholders was training and guidance for the post-revolutionary political leaders and bureaucrats, and investment in the creation of reliable security forces.

The help when it came was too little, too late.

An agreement by the US and Bulgaria was only signed In September 2013, 28 months after Libya’s revolution erupted on 17 February 2011.

The UK said it would train around 2,000 soldiers, but the first soldiers were only brought to the UK for training in June 2014, more than three years after the revolution started.

This tardiness, and Nato’s failure to provide proper security for Libya’s democratic transition early on, has led to the current situation, which is now many times more difficult to solve.

The battle for territory between rival militia coalitions has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, while the absence of any kind of effective government means jihadist groups such as Isis have a free reign to carry out atrocities.

To minimise the impact on neighbouring countries, Europe, the US and their Arab allies need to learn from the mistakes of the past, prioritise Libya’s crisis and closely coordinate their response.

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