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Disarming Libya’s Militias

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By William Tucker

In the wake of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi security in Libya has been tenuous at best. The new government has struggled to simultaneously improve security, provide basic services, and stabilize crude oil production. The struggle, however, does not indicate the government has completely failed in this regard, instead it simply recognizes the challenges of reestablishing governance and security in a large nation with a small, widespread population. Naturally, this challenge isn’t just related to the current government, but, in fact, is a challenge the Gaddafi regime faced as well. Gaddafi’s approach was multifaceted and employed both accommodation to the various Libyan tribes and the strong arm of a well heeled security apparatus. With Gaddafi gone many tribes and other movements want to ensure that their political fortunes and concerns are addressed by the new government. With a fair amount of armaments in the hands of the tribes and local political movements, there is little reason to disarm. Unless, of course, the voluntary disarming is tied to specific guarantees from the government.

The new government in Tripoli has implemented a program for militias, and other civilians that engaged in combat during the uprising, to turn in weapons to the military. In response to the recent death of the U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi the program had taken on new urgency. Thus far the program has had some success, although some of the jihadists, militias, and a few tribes have not followed through. The deadline set by the government expired on September 25; however there hasn’t been any overly aggressive action by the government to force these holdouts to comply with the law. If the government does take action and forcibly disarms these groups it is possible that the ensuing violence could spread as other holdouts double down on their positions. It is likely that the government will try negotiations with some of the tribes and attempt to assuage their concerns, but the remaining Gaddafi loyalists and regional jihadists will be a much larger challenge. With international support the challenge shouldn’t be considered insurmountable.

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