Washington announced that money initially earmarked for Pentagon operations in Pakistan would be shifted to Libya to train and develop Libyan counter-terror troops to combat Al Qaeda. This step comes following the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the death of the US ambassador there.
There can be no doubt that this step is important and necessary, not just to confront Al Qaeda, but also to help the Libyans build security and non-security institutions that will help development in Libya as a whole. However, the fear is that this US assistance would see Libya transform into a theatre for US operations against Al Qaeda, as is the case in Pakistan and Yemen, particularly with regards to the US drones that roam the airspace of these two countries. In the event that the US – Libyan security agreement moves in this direction, this would push Libya as a whole towards a state of instability, as we would find that some people would seek to exploit this US intervention for propaganda purposes in order to incite the ordinary Libyan people or mobilize conservative Libyans, and this is very dangerous.
In order to ensure the success of the US assistance to the Libyan people regarding the establishment of security apparatus to combat terrorism, it would be better if this were purely Libyan, and did not include any US interference, whether in terms of troops or drones. This would ensure the success of the general project to combat terrorism in Libya. Therefore it would be better for the US to contribute by convincing the Libyan officials of the need to adopt innovative and effective ideas that encompasses all Libyan rebels and ensures the recovery of arms from the street, as this will guarantee greater stability in Libya. Al Qaeda only spreads and proliferates in unstable societies. Among these creative ideas is the idea put forward by Libyan High National Electoral Commission chairman Mr. Nouri al-Abbar in his recent interview with our newspaper, which was conducted by colleague Abdul-Sattar Hatita. In this interview, al-Abbar put forward the idea of developing the Libyan National Guard, which would encompass the rebels. Al-Abbar included detailed explanations of this idea in the second part of this important interview, warning against discarding the armed battalions who might then go on to become a threat to Libya. He is right in this, and the best example of the danger of such exclusion and abandonment is what happened – and is still happening – in post-Saddam Iraq.
Therefore, the best assistance that the Americans can give the Libyans in terms of combatting terrorism is training, organization and convincing them of the need to develop a National Guard that encompasses all rebel militias and allows the Libyans to combat the Al Qaeda organization or any other extremist group themselves, without the US becoming embroiled in this under any circumstances. This is because if America were to get involved, this would create dangerous divisions within Libyan society which has, so far, demonstrated a spirit of moderation and a desire to move forward; Libya is a country that does not suffer from ideological divisions or sectarian conflicts, whilst it is also not suffering from any financial crisis. All that Libya requires is serious work and the adoption of practical options and creative ideas, particularly as what is being put forward from the political class in Libya, until now, demonstrates a sense of responsibility. Therefore the fear is that this US assistance would become a factor in instability, particularly if the Americans want to act in Libya along the lines of what is happening in Yemen and Pakistan.