US-backed rebels in Libya shoot up the city of Bani Walid. Thousands were forced to flee the city after a siege and bombardment with chemical weapons., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Monday, February 25th, 2013 WorldTribune.com
In post-Gadhafi Libya, militias still more powerful than military
Special to WorldTribune.com
CAIRO — Nearly 18 months after the fall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s new regime has been unable to launch the reorganization of its military.
Western diplomats said the post-Gadhafi regime in Tripoli has been hampered by a chaotic government as well as powerful militias that are better armed than most military units. They said this has prevented the government from determining the requirements and priorities of the military.
“For the last year, Western governments and defense companies worked with Tripoli to draft a military modernization and structuring program,” a diplomat said. “When it seemed like some progress was being made, the work had to start all over again because of the power struggles within the government and military.”
The Western marketing effort was based on an assessment that post-Gadhafi Libya was determined to replace Russia as a leading supplier. But executives eventually concluded that Tripoli was unable to honor either decisions or financial commitments.
“The companies soon found out that nobody had access to government funds, and that all the trips and meetings were just a giant waste of time,” a Western diplomatic source in Tripoli said.
The Tripoli government appears to have been persuaded to first secure Libya’s borders to stop arms smuggling and Al Qaida infiltration. But the diplomats said the Libyan Army, led by Chief of Staff Gen. Yusef Mangoush, has wielded no authority over vast areas of the North African state,
controlled by powerful militias.
Western governments, particularly NATO members, sought to help Tripoli to end militia control by offering fighters positions in the Libyan military. But the thousands of rebels who joined the army and police maintained their former loyalty and were disobeying orders from commanders.
As a result, few Western governments have been willing to supply major combat platforms to Libya. The diplomats said most of the offers were restricted to reconnaissance, air defense systems and patrol boats. Britain and France were said to have been competing to win naval projects.
“There is a consensus within the military that the priority should be the reformation of a navy followed by an effective air force,” the diplomatic source said. “But right now, there is really nobody in the government or military who could take a decision and make it stick.”