Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Militia, Security and Libya

Since 2011 revolution, Libya’s security environment has been a constant pressing issue. Without a monopoly on the use of force, the new government cannot focus on other issues plaguing the country. At first, the security instability was largely caused by the plethora of militia groups or revolutionary armed groups. However, most of the militia groups are now absorbed into the Supreme Security Committees (SSC) and the Libya Shield, which were created as an effort by the government to bring the militia under its own control. The SSC was meant to act as a supplement to the regular police force and the Libya Shield- as a supplement to the regular army force. Although they are technically under the authority of the Interior Ministry and the chief of staff, the two entities grew to be quite autonomous. Indeed, the subsequent attempts of the Ministry of Interior to integrate the SSC into the regular policy force were met with a lot resistance. This resistance is not surprising since for those at the top of the SSC the integration would mean relinquishing their hard-earned power, while for those at the bottom it would mean a much lower salary. The autonomy and power of these two groups were shown in their May 2013 siege of the ministries, during which they demanded that an isolation law would be passed to prevent those who were serving in government under Qaddafi from any government employment. In addition, they subsequently demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.

Thus the number one issue for the post-revolutionary central government is to bring these two government-sponsored militia groups under its full control. The most recent and most promising attempt at this was the idea of a National Guard, which aimed to bring Libya Shield under full government control. Volunteers from the Libya Shield would support the army in protecting the country from external threats and at times helping the police maintain internal security. By creating this new third entity, in addition to regular army and police, the government was hoping to rebrand the Libya Shield militia, which would have moved it further away from revolutionary thinking and closer to nationalist thinking. However, in mid-June, the Zeidan government decided to repeal its resolution 362 to set up a National Guard without a clear explanation. This is an unfortunate decision since it could have ushered a more stable security environment by allowing all forces to work on common goal of protecting the country. Moreover, creating a National Guard out of the existing forces is a better plan of action for a country that has a surplus of militia, than creating a separate Libyan military force from non-soldiers, which is now envisioned by NATO countries.

In order to start ameliorating the security situation, the Zeidan government needs to put SSC members through vetting process and absorb the successful ones into regular police force, while demobilising and disarming those who do not pass the process. Furthermore, it should increase the salaries of the army and police officers in order to appeal to those working for the SSC and the Libya Shield, where salaries are much higher. Since they are also paid by the government, it should be relatively easy for the government to readjust salaries. Moreover, since the army and police forces are bloated at the top ranks, the government needs to free up space in order to show the opportunity for growth and attract more soldiers from the SSC and the Libya Shield. More importantly, the government should create a clearly defined road map for the security sector that will prioritize SSR activities and clarify functions and command authority held by the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, chief of general staff, and military governorships. Indeed, the government should ensure that the reorganization of the oversight bodies of the forces goes hand in hand with any security sector reform since without clear command structure at government level, the SSC and the Libya Shield leaders (and other smaller militia groups) will be hesitant to give up their authority or submit to the Zeidan government.


  1. Exceptionally valuable article, highlighting who is what, and why they are who they are.

    I felt the item about a National Guard being established made up of non soldiers suggests that the mistakes of Iraq in 2003 may be repeated. It does cast doubt on whether NATO can give enough attention to these challenges - sectarianism / tribalism/ regionalism, old regime loyalists versus die hard opponents, whether there are enough compromisers, and the sheer size of the country and the levels of cooperation with neighbours. And the roles of other interested countries ( oil, gas, weapons).

    I will be looking forward to more from Margarita's blog.

  2. Thank you! NATO is done with Libya for now, I think. It approached Libya mission in hard, fast and military savvy manner that was very successful, military speaking. Although the current political problems and growing instability are alarming, I think NATO will be focusing more on Syria for next little bit. This Syria situation is becoming hotter and hotter, day by day.

  3. This is a thought provoking post about the complexities of post-conflict and post-dictatorship nation building. My humble opinion is that nationalism is largely a false construct-we have taken centuries trying to teach western citizens to give up local and regional loyalties and instead worship central governments. We are still working on it, and the "democracy deficit" is increasingly obvious. When one considers the arbitrary and self-serving way in which the west created and manipulated its former colonial territories, I must admit I wonder whether further meddling can bring any good. Why do we not include discussions of regional autonomy, or ask the Libyans themselves, what kind of post-Gadhafi social structures and security options they might want?

    1. Very true. Although humanitarian intervention or intervening in a conflict sounds like a good idea to most, it's actually quite tricky if you think about. The West tends to intervene in conflicts from which it could profit and sometimes actually makes the conflict worse, because it's not the people on the ground it's thinking about.. but it's own interests. As for Libya, the government is sort of toying with consulting the public regarding security options, but it is not really genuinely invested in it. However, it is an internal issue since it is the government that is not consulting the public. The West does not have much effect on that, as far as I know. But you are absolutely right, the government should have more public consultations.

  4. Welcome Margita I wish you luck I'm from Libya and working on a project like this and any help you like that oldest You can e-mail me
    Another note
    Between militias and whose activities are unknown and frightening is the Islamic groups, which are considered Mlishat shadow

  5. Libya in front of big challenges in front of the increasing strength of armed militias and experience Libyan is very close to the experience of Somalia and failing to army building for several reasons, including third parties does not want to Libya to settle down and where, referring to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, France and some other Western countries Thus says the men Parliament \ ....
    Government of Libya legitimacy given to veterans and finding the military institution, a Booze contribute in compression strength of those groups
    The only solution for Libya is the re-establishment of the old military with the correct track Ki control the situation in a professional and Libya decrease rulers new political will, which is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, on the other hand militias and tribes