The 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.
“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  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.”
“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.”