Libya: Creeping Chaos Creates A Terrorist Sanctuary

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October 26, 2013: The government admits that it still does not have sufficient security forces to control the entire country and progress disarming the armed militias is very slow. There are over 220,000 armed Libyans who have registered with the government and receive a salary but largely answer to local militia leaders and not the central government. There is no quick solution to the warlord problem. The government has to build its military and police forces as quickly as it can and then take down the hundreds of armed gangs one at a time. At the current rate, this could take five years or more. There is also the risk that many of these groups will unite to halt the pacification efforts and that would create another civil war. That is already happening in eastern Libya.

Worse, many of the tribes that long supported the dead dictator Kaddafi still oppose the new government and want the Kaddafi family back in charge. These tribes prospered under Kaddafi rule because the dictator favored these tribes when it came to jobs and economic opportunities. That is all gone now, and the pro-Kaddafi tribes are not happy about it. The tribes in eastern Libya were always the most hostile to Kaddafi and they want “compensation” for that in the form of a large share of the oil income. How to divide this oil income is a sensitive topic for everyone. The rampant corruption (which Kaddafi tolerated, as long as he was obeyed) was never popular and has proven difficult to bring under control. It’s hard to be fair dispensing the oil income if so many people are trying to steal it.

Under pressure from European countries the government has said it will try to halt the large number of African migrants coming to Libya then paying smugglers to get them to Europe, where they can claim asylum and greatly improve their economic situation. Over 500 people a day are illegally crossing the southern border in an effort to make it to Europe. This is more of a problem for Europeans than Libyans, who see the largely black African illegals as a nuisance, mainly because the migrants are just passing through. These travelers don’t want to stay in Libya, which is generally very hostile to these unwanted visitors. The illegals are easy to spot and the locals will sometimes murder migrants who cause any problems. Stopping them from getting into Libya is not easily done because the southern border is largely desert that smugglers have been getting across easily for generations. Checkpoints on the few roads headed north are subject to bribes or simply going around.

Oil production is still only about 40 percent of the normal 1.4 million barrels a day. That is because local militias are still blocking shipment of oil produced in eastern Libya.

October 25, 2013: In the east a coalition of warlord and tribal militias has declared independence from Libya and established a new country called Barqa. It has four provinces (Benghazi, Tobruk, Ajdabiya, and Jebel Akhdar) but does not have loyal gunmen in most of the region claimed and has many armed opponents. In effect, a number of the eastern militias have dared the government to come and disarm them or tolerate these easterners running their own government and selling oil. At present the government controls a naval force that can blockade the oil export terminals and prevent andy rebel militias from selling oil by sea. The government still has control of the border crossings, or can contest it with militias. This limits how much oil can be smuggled out via truck. Oil is valuable but bulky. A ton of oil sells for about $700 and oil tanker trucks can carry 10-30 tons of it. The larger trucks are tractor trailers and not very good at cross country travel. Thus the rebellions eastern tribes can control the oil but they can’t sell much of it themselves as long as the navy remains loyal.

The Algerian government revealed that its troops had discovered a huge arms cache near the Libyan border. The cache contained hundreds of portable anti-aircraft missiles, rockets, and landmines.

In Benghazi the air force officer in charge of air traffic control at the local air base was murdered as he left his home.

October 23, 2013: In neighboring Tunisia 6 policemen were killed while fighting Islamic terrorists south of the capital. Tunisia blames some of its Islamic terrorist problems on a lack of law and order in Libya and the ability of the Islamic terrorists to bring in weapons stolen from Kaddafi era armories. Islamic terrorists also maintain bases in the south, especially the southeast near the Niger border. These are the bases that can send terrorists into neighboring Algeria or straight north to Tunisia. The Algerian border is well guarded so many terrorists head for Tunisia where they have established bases in the Atlas Mountains near the Mediterranean coast. Tunisian soldiers and police have been searching for these bases all this year, without much success.

October 22, 2013: Some former rebels, crippled during the fighting two years ago, broke into parliament and caused some damage. The vandals had been demonstrating outside parliament for more benefits. Demanding more from the government (which controls all the oil income) is a popular activity with many groups.

October 21, 2013: NATO has agreed to set up a small (fewer than 10 personnel) advisory team in Libya. The Libyan government first asked for this in May, but NATO is a bureaucracy and things take time.

October 20, 2013: A militia near the Egyptian border agreed to release 70 Egyptian trucks and 200 Egyptians that they had seized a week earlier. Some militia members had kin jailed in Egypt for smuggling and thought kidnapping Egyptians would force the Egyptian government to set free the smugglers. Egypt refused and negotiated with tribal leaders to get the trucks and Egyptians released.

October 18, 2013: In Benghazi gunmen killed Ahmed al Barghathi, the head of the military police. Barghathi had been supervising operations against rebel militias and the militias are responding by assassinating the leaders of efforts to disband them.

October 14, 2013: In the coastal city of Sirte (midway between Tripoli and Benghazi) 7 Islamic terrorists died in an explosion. It’s unclear if someone killed them or they died while building a bomb.

October 13, 2013: In Benghazi gunmen killed a Libyan air force officer, while a commander of a police anti-drug operation was badly wounded when a bomb in his car went off.

October 11, 2013: In Benghazi a car bomb went off near the Swedish and Finnish consulates, but there were no casualties.

October 10, 2013: In the capital some armed militiamen kidnapped the prime minister from the hotel he is living in. A few hours later militiamen loyal to the government forced the kidnappers to free the prime minister (who accused his kidnappers of trying to stage a coup).

October 9, 2013: The government admitted that it has given the U.S. permission to go after suspects in last years’ attack on the Benghazi compound, where the American ambassador was staying. The attackers killed the ambassador and the Libyan government has been unable to arrest the men who are in Libya and are known to have participated. It is believed that similar unofficial permission was given to go after Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai (also known as Abu Anas al Libi) on the 5th, using American commandos to grab Ruqai in front of his house and take him back to the U.S. for prosecution. 

 

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