Libya Tribune

By Group of scholar (*)

This report presents a city-based model of politics, economics, and for security. It describes a strategy for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

The report concludes with quotes from a recent report by the Libyan National Conference Process.


Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration

Over time, there is little doubt that Libya’s current security environment, awash in weaponry of many types held by many groups, cannot be conducive to national stability and must change.

The current prospects for large-scale DDR of militia forces in Libya at this moment, however, strike us as poor. Indeed, it is largely for that reason that our proposed security strategy attempts to induce better behavior by the militias—so that they may, by necessity, help provide the backbone of what is needed to create national-level security forces and stability.

Contrary to widely held belief, DDR is not solely a technical endeavor. Rather, it is a complex undertaking associated with major changes in balances of power. It requires credible security assurances to those who disarm (and to populations in need of protection).

In Libya, it also will require that they have some form of broad access to the country’s economic and political resources. Libya at present does not yet enjoy the kinds of security conditions that make comprehensive DDR realistic.

For a broad DDR process to be politically viable with the militias, much would need to change, even beyond the gradual reform of militias and the stitching together of regional military commands.

A credible vision would have to emerge for the creation of trustworthy, central security organizations that could provide for the safety of Libyans across the country. Libya is a long ways from such circumstances today.


In conclusion, we can do no better than to quote from a recent report by the Libyan National Conference Process, which was initiated at the request of the United Nations mission in Libya, under the auspices of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva.

It held more than 70 separate meetings, in Libya and elsewhere, with a grand total of more than 7,000 Libyans participating (over a quarter of them women). The report lists 10 main findings and principles, quoting from its executive summary:

1. Libya’s unity and national sovereignty must be preserved, while recognizing local and cultural differences within a framework of decentralization. This entails a complete rejection of negative foreign interference.

2. Rational and effective democratic governance is needed. This must be based on clear and objective criteria and competences rather than tribal, political or regional affiliations. This requires greater transparency in public affairs and appointments, and strong judicial oversight free from all coercion and pressure.

3. Security is essential in daily life, with strong and independent security and military institutions based on national values, obedient to the rule of law and subject to civilian and judicial oversight.

4. Unified sovereign and military institutions must be protected from political, partisan and regional interference. These institutions must operate in the interests of all Libyans.

5. Libya’s national resources must be protected. Economic reforms are needed to ensure an end to corruption and the waste of state resources. Strong oversight must be exercised over public spending and financial institutions.

6. Libya’s resources must be distributed fairly. This entails greater allocations for municipalities and a budget for major developments, reconstruction and infrastructure. A special fund should be created to reinvest some of the wealth generated by oil-producing and exporting companies in the sustainable development of the regions in which they operate.

7. The functioning of the state must be built on strong local governance. This requires capacity-building and a revision of the current legislative framework and system of municipalities. It is essential that municipalities continue to operate as apolitical bodies and in the interests of citizens.

8. The transitional phase must be ended, definitively, with the adoption of a constitution based on a consensus that can unite the country.

9. Safe, secure and transparent elections must be held when the minimal conditions are met, with no barriers to the full participation of all Libyans.

10. National reconciliation must be achieved, based on traditional Libyan practices and values and with respect for the demands of justice.

The reconciliation process must be free from foreign interference.” The two-pronged strategy we outline—of formalizing a cities-based strategy and re-engaging American leadership politically and strategically in support of that approach—is intended to give concreteness to principles like those listed above.

It is also designed to give much stronger support to the ongoing efforts of the U.N. mission in Libya. They are much more promising than in the past; they are, however, nowhere near actual success.

Ultimately, all of this is of course for Libyans, and only Libyans, to decide. The role of Washington, and other outside actors, is to help make meaningful choices possible, and to support Libyans (rather than often work against them, as has too frequently been the case to date) once they choose their new path forward.

Most likely, that new path will build on the principles and concepts that have always undergirded and empowered the Libyan nation and that are so inspiringly captured in the 10 principles cited above. It is time to turn inspiration into action.



Although it was not a majority view in our group, several of us (including Amr, Fasanotti, Jones, Mezran, O’Hanlon, and Signé) felt strongly that any major strategic review of Libya policy needs to entertain an idea that has been anathema until now: the authorization and deployment of a modest international force for very specific security-related purposes.

Otherwise, distrust among myriad competing actors may spoil any realistic chances for peace that may emerge in coming months.

Only Libyans could request such a force; we are not proposing that it be imposed on them.

Indeed, there is virtually no chance that the United Nations Security Council could, or should, deploy such a force unless it has strong backing among Libyans.

To allow Libyans to decide themselves if such a force merits serious discussion, United Nations specialists or independent experts could attend the envisioned national conference to provide information and analysis about other U.N.-sanctioned missions around the world, as grist for Libyans to debate in the event that they wish to consider such an option for themselves.

The force could be deployed to keep stability in central Tripoli, to guard oil assets and key infrastructure, and to protect key political actors and institutions (as well as to protect itself if need be). It would also conduct monitoring, and thereby provide confidence and reassurance, that the various militias will not attack each other.

Although Libyans, and only Libyans, could decide to invite such a force into their country, the international community could be more emphatic in its counsel.

Based on precedents from around the world, the chances of reaching and sustaining any kind of ceasefire and stabilization in Libya are very low without some kind of external security assistance capability.

Such is the hard calculus of trying to end civil wars. The international community could also tie the creation of a new assistance fund to the willingness of Libya’s national

conference to request that the United Nations Security Council authorize deployment of a security assistance operation. Without such a force, providing additional foreign aid could amount to throwing away money.

Such a force need not have strong U.S. or European representation. But it would need real expertise and competence (meaning, among other things, that some degree of American, Canadian, European, Korean, Australian, or other such participation would be very helpful). It should also be accorded clear rules of engagement, and some kind of enforcement capability.

The force could only be approved with the support—indeed, the enthusiastic endorsement and formal request—of most major Libyan actors. Only in such a case would Russia likely vote for it at the U.N. Security Council; only in such a case would the risk of spoilers be kept to a manageable scale.

Some of the specific characteristics of a U.N.-authorized force might be as follows.

First, while authorized by the United Nations, it need not be run by the U.N.

The mandate for the force might include the protection of oil production facilities, ports, airfields, pipelines, electricity generation facilities and electricity lines, key political institutions, key individuals, and the force itself. The force might also have dual-key responsibilities, in conjunction with Libyan central authorities, to approve or reject major imports and exports done through facilities under its supervision.

The force could issue public reports on what it observes and learns, providing an independent and more credible source of information on subjects like the state of any ceasefire than what is otherwise often available in Libya today.

Unlike the debacles of the 1990s, in places such as Srebrenica, Bosnia and Kigali, Rwanda, this force (like virtually all U.N.-sanctioned forces of the 21st century) would have robust self-protection authorities and rules of engagement. It would presumably be authorized under Chapter 7 of the United Nations charter—not to grant unlimited powers to the outside force, but to allow robust rules of engagement for self-defense.

Libyans would be involved in supporting the creation of this force and according it those powers. But once agreed to, the force would then be able to carry out enforcement actions within its mandate without further permission.

In fact, it could even retaliate against Libyan actors that behave illegally or violently, though presumably it would seek to minimize the use of lethal force unless infractions are severe.

The U.N. entity should also be backstopped by an over-the-horizon capability, perhaps U.S.-led, that would further punish transgressors and ensure the safety of the U.N. units as need be. Libya’s geography lends itself to the effective employment of this approach more than most countries where U.N. forces have operated, given the proximity of NATO nations as well as the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Basing estimates on the modest size of the Libyan population and the limited mandate given to the force, its size might wind up in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 personnel, implying an annual cost of around $500 million if done through normal U.N. mechanisms.

The force should have significant NATO capacity within its various elements and lines of effort. America’s East Asian allies and European neutral states could also help. But the majority of its troops could come from carefully chosen Muslim-majority states (primarily states from outside the Middle East and North Africa region, presumably).

Training of Libyan militias and other security structures could be done by the U.N. force, or by outside powers. However, in the latter event, the U.N. mechanism would need to certify which militias are deemed in compliance with their obligations to qualify for training and equipment and association with the incipient regional security commands. To do this job correctly, the United Nations force would need enough presence in the country’s major cities—or at least those deemed reasonably safe—to have an intelligence-based process for reaching such assessments.

The End


(*) The group of scholars are: John R. Allen, Hady Amr, Daniel L. Byman, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Jeffrey Feltman, Alice Friend, Jason Fritz, Adel Abdel Ghafar, Bruce Jones, Mara Karlin, Karim Mezran, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Federica Saini Fasanotti, Landry Signé, Arturo Varvelli, and Frederic Wehrey.