Rafik Hariri Center Nonresident Fellow Duncan Pickard cowrites for the Washington Post on what the United States can do to help the situation in Libya:
President Obama said this month that perhaps his biggest foreign policy regret was providing insufficient support to Libya’s fledgling political institutions after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi. Obama said that he underestimated the need for the United States and its European allies to come in “full force” after the military intervention, given Libya’s lack of “civic traditions” after 42 years of dictatorship.
The failure of Libya’s political institutions has had dire consequences. The violent character of the Libyan revolution, in contrast to the other 2011 Arab Spring uprisings — including, at the time, in Syria — did not help. The militias that rose against Gaddafi sought to set terms and win power by force. The interim government was too weak to consolidate the militias, which are now waging a makeshift war in Tripoli and Benghazi along ideological lines. The swaths of Libya that remain outside the government’s control have become ideal recruiting grounds for international jihadist organizations, and unmanaged stores of weapons pass through porous borders to Tunisia, Algeria and Mali.