Security challenges threaten to undermine Libya’s political transition as well as its relations with other countries, according to a new issue brief released by the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.

The September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, resulting in the death of four American diplomats, makes more urgent the report’s identification of serious internal security deficiencies. Problems include the resurgence of Qaddafi loyalists seeking to undermine any progress made in the transition; tribal and inter-militia clashes resulting in violent competition over territory, power and influence; and weak and disjointed national security forces with an unclear hierarchy or authority.  All of these challenges, as well as the proliferation of weapons into neighboring countries, create an ideal environment for al-Qaeda forces and threaten to instigate regional instability.

Report authors Karim Mezran, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center, and Fadel Lamen, president of the American Libyan Council, present recommendations for the United States and the international community for moving forward in Libya. Mezran and Lamen argue that the United States and the international community must devote significant attention and resources to ensure the process of democratization succeeds in Libya.

To prevent this descent into anarchy and allow for a successful democratization, Mezran and Lamen suggest the United States should:

  • Encourage and support a reconciliation process in Libya, and should involve prominent regional figures to give the process a sense of neutrality.
  • Endeavor to convince the Libyan government that an international peacekeeping presence or police force would help reassure the security situation.
  • Incentivize militia disarmament by offering education or vocational training to Libyans involved in militias, or, in collaboration with international institutions, formulate and implement a security reconstruction plan to remove the need for militias to protect.
  • Increase support for securing and destroying weapons caches, assisting with border security, and enter into a military assistance agreement.

The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East seeks to produce original analysis of the forces transforming the region, as well as policy recommendations for the United States and Europe about how to promote closer and more productive relations with the region. The Hariri Center recognizes the substantial linkages between political and economic affairs, and will develop policy initiatives to promote successful democratic transitions and greater convergence among the Middle East, the United States, and Europe.


Related Experts: Fadel Lamen and Karim Mezran