Next Steps for a Post-Qadhafi Libya

By Andrew Fenzel, Transatlantic Security Analyst

Now that Muammar Qadhafi is no longer in power, the next step is to ensure that Libya becomes a stable nation. Until recently, however, there was no mention of a post-conflict strategy – a surprising development given the lessons of Iraq.  As the conflict speeds toward a conclusion, Western leaders, along with the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC), are scrambling to formulate a viable strategy. To reduce the chances that Libya will suffer the same fate as Iraq: 1) NATO should ensure Libya’s security; 2) the US and the EU should assist Libya in its transition to liberal democracy; and 3) a UN-led regional multilateral coalition should be created to help rebuild Libya and guarantee peace and stability.


First, NATO should play an integral role in maintaining Libya’s security. Notwithstanding the victory by the rebels, there are factions loyal to Qadhafi still fighting. Consequently, NATO should not only continue to enforce the no-fly zone and the arms embargo, it should also deploy a small number of ground forces. Since Europe has the most at stake in stabilizing Libya, the forces should come overwhelmingly from France and Italy. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently said: “We do not see a lead role for NATO in Libya once this crisis is over.” But NATO cannot simply declare victory and walk away; it must finish the job by placing a UN-sanctioned peacekeeping force on the ground.


Second, the US and the EU should provide limited assistance to Libya as it reestablishes governance. Neither side of the Atlantic can afford to get involved in another protracted post-conflict reconstruction project, but they should provide technical assistance so that the NTC can restore law and order, create a constitution, and call for elections. The NTC is off to a good start: it has called on its supporters to include pro-Qadhafi factions in a new government and has rejected  retribution killings. Once again, France, Italy, and other key European states need to step up their assistance.


Third, Western nations should build a coalition of regional organizations under the purview of the UN. As Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, has argued, international politics will become increasingly multilateral. Libya would be good example of how regional organizations, the members of which generally have a strong interest in maintaining stability in their neighborhood, can contribute to the reconstruction a country. The African Union and the Arab League should work closely to restore Libya’s economy and damaged infrastructure.

So far, the West has not paid enough attention to post-conflict planning. With no post-conflict strategy fully articulated, Libya faces an uncertain future. But with a UN-led regional coalition, limited US and EU support, and NATO peacekeeping forces, a stable post-Qadhafi Libya would be within reach.


So far, the West has not paid enough attention to post-conflict planning. With no post-conflict strategy fully articulated, Libya faces an uncertain future. But with a UN-led regional coalition, limited US and EU support, and NATO peacekeeping forces, a stable post-Qadhafi Libya would be within reach.

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