So much for ‘modesty’: U.S. plans to build Libyan military

Ali-Zeidan_2368770bThe Obama administration may have adopted plans for a more “modest” Middle East policy, with National Security Adviser Susan Rice stating that Washington “can’t just be consumed 24/7 by one region, important as it is,” notes Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But it appears that the Pentagon didn’t get the memo.

Nation-building may be out of fashion, but the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is preparing to help Libya rebuild its entire security sector, he writes for Foreign Affairs.

The plan seems reasonable on paper, says Wehrey, whose Carnegie publications include The Struggle for Security in Eastern Libya and Building Libya’s Security Sector.

“Trained at overseas bases outside Libya, the new force will allow the government to project its own authority, protect elected officials and institutions from the militias operating within the country, and compel the militias to demobilize and disarm,” he says.  “Washington sees the effort as a crucial step in Libya’s democratic transition and as a way to halt extremism and prevent the country’s lawlessness from spilling over its borders.”

The apparently accelerating deterioration of security in Libya was underscored by the recent abduction of the country’s prime minister Ali Zeidan (above).

“After the [2011] revolution, the Libyan authorities integrated brigades as a whole and these brigades basically retained their structures. So the men don’t obey the state, they obey their leaders,” said Marine Casalis, FRANCE 24’s Libya correspondent. “You may have legal militias, but even these militias may not respect the legitimacy of the state and the government.”LBYA0001

Failed state

“It’s a failed state,” a high-ranking EU diplomat says of Libya. “It’s not functioning.

The Libyan government “lacks even 100 armed men who would lay their lives on the line to defend the abstract concept of the state. Conversely, the militias can rely on thousands,” according to Cambridge University’s Jason Pack, the editor of “The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future,” and Mohamed Eljarh, who writes on Libya for Foreign Policy’s “Transitions” blog.

The state’s inability to rein in Islamist and other militias threatens to undermine Libya’s democratic prospects, as anticipated in a report from the National Endowment for Democracy.

“But the [new] force’s composition, the details of its training, the extent to which Libyan civilians will oversee it, and its ability to deal with the range of threats that the country faces are all unclear,” Wehrey asserts:

Both the Libyan government and outside supporters must recognize that Libya’s security issues are fundamentally political problems. Better training and equipment will not automatically confer legitimacy on the new army, compel militias to surrender their arms, or entice Libyans to join up. That legitimacy will be obtained through a broad political reconciliation under the auspices of the recently announced National Dialogue, a functioning parliament, a constitution, and an equitable judicial system — and by a government that is able to deliver services across the country

“If the United States doesn’t want to leave the country worse off, it should think very carefully about that force’s composition, mission, and oversight before the program begins,” he asserts. “It must also heed those who argue that the mission should be accompanied by broader assistance designed to help Libya work through the economic and political challenges that underlie its insecurity.”


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Azerbaijan: release opposition leaders

Azerbaijani authorities should immediately release from pretrial detention two senior opposition leaders charged with organizing mass riots, Human Rights Watch said today:

The authorities should either produce credible evidence that the charges against the two men are justified, or drop them.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Ilgar Mammadov (right), 43, is a prominent political analyst and chair of the opposition group REAL (Republican Alternative), one of Azerbaijan’s few alternative political voices. In February, prior to Mammadov’s arrest, REAL had planned to announce that he would be the movement’s candidate in the October presidential elections. Tofig Yagublu, 52, is deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and a columnist with the opposition daily newspaper Yeni Musavat.

“In the past year, Azerbaijan’s government has launched an unprecedented crackdown on critics,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Ilgar Mammadov and Tofig Yagublu are among the victims of Azerbaijan’s dragnet to silence dissent.”

Independent observers had raised concerns with the Azerbaijani government about Mammadov and Yagublu’s arrest. In a July 2013 report, the Council of Europe called their arrest “a very problematic development.” Amnesty International has declared them both prisoners of conscience.

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China hasn’t earned seat on Human Rights Council

It is debatable whether the U.S. should intervene in criminal cases in China, such as that of the recently executed street vendor Xia Junfeng, says a leading rights activist. But opposing China’s candidacy for the U.N. Human Rights Council is the least Washington can do, Yang Jianli (right) writes for The Washington Post.

China is unfit to sit on a council charged with protecting human rights, says Yang, the founder and president of Initiatives for China:

As the Congressional-Executive Commission noted in its 2012 annual report, forced abortions and sterilizations are still common in China. The State Department’s 2012 report on human rights said that the denial of religious freedom in China remains pervasive …Dungeons across China hold tens of thousands of Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongols, Christians, Muslims, Falun Gong and Han Chinese who bravely seek to defend the human rights of those persecuted for their faith or ethnicity or for seeking the rule of law. China is the only country in the world that detains a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Tibetans are driven to self-immolation by their continued oppression. The Congressional-Executive Commission on China annually details gross violations of human rights.

China’s brutal actions belie its claim that economic modernization would lead to decreased human rights abuses, says Yang, who was imprisoned in China from 2002 to 2007 for attempting to observe labor unrest.

The mirthless joke in China is that President Xi Jinping’s inchoate slogan of “a Chinese dream” refers to getting your kids into an American university, The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt reports:

Political power has become a ticket to loot: The 50?wealthiest members of the U.S. Congress have assets of $1.6 billion, the Economist recently reported, while their 50 Chinese counterparts have amassed $95 billion.

Since Mao Zedong’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, China has accomplished amazing things, Hiatt notes:

More people have moved out of poverty in a short period of time than ever before in world history. Chinese enjoy personal freedoms and economic well-being to an extent that Mao never could have imagined. …But it is fair, many Chinese say, to ask whether the top-down, one-party authoritarianism that got them this far can cope with the more complex challenges they face now.


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A Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support

The Council for a Community of Democracies has announced a new edition of A Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support, directed by Ambassador Jeremy Kinsman.

The third edition has been published by the Centre for International Governance Innovation with a special In Memoriam to the late Ambassador Mark Palmer. The project has also inspired a prize in Mark Palmer’s name, honoring diplomats who embody the Handbook’s ideas.

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