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.