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article imageOp-Ed: Libya continues to suffer from instability and violence

By Ken Hanly     May 21, 2013 in World
Tripoli - The past few weeks have seen continued violence in various places in Libya including the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. Militias continue to operate while the central government seems unable or unwilling to confront them.
UPI recently reported that: "There are an estimated 500 militias and armed groups across Libya with an estimated 250,000 men under arms outside of government control”. These groups have their own agendas that they often manage to push through the government by a show of force. Recently, militias, by surrounding several ministries and other violent acts, were able to force the government to pass a law that will ban former Gadaffi officials from having senior government positions for ten years. If actually enforced, this law will force many prominent officials to step down even further weakening an already weak government.
In April the French embassy came under attack. Two analysts, Jason Pack, of and Karim Mezran, a senior fellow at the Atlantic council claim that: “the French Embassy attack may prove to be the start of a trend, in which case Libyan -- and by extension North African -- instability would become a permanent status quo. The crisis in Mali and the growing instability in Algeria -- and most recently Tunisia -- offer clear evidence in support of this conjecture.” Since that time, many embassies have announced a further reduction in staff. Warnings have been issued to avoid all non-essential travel to the east, west, and south of Libya. Even oil companies in some instances are reducing personnel because of circumstances. Some of the oil facilities are guarded by militia groups. The US has shown its concern by moving US Marines and also assault aircraft from an air base in Spain to an air base closer to Libya in Italy.
The judicial system is also in disarray. The international Legal Assistance Consortium just released a report that claims that there are 8,000 prisoners still held in prisons "without charges or representation". The report also claims that “the absence of security for justice sector personnel has led judges and prosecutors to indefinitely delay the processing of detainees’ cases.” While oil production is increasing, facilities are often shut down from time to time due to the demands backed by militia forces. A few days ago the Zueltina oil terminal southwest of Benghazi was shut down for the second time in six months. The Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi says that such disruptions have cost the industry about $1 billion over the last five months.
In recent days two police stations in Benghazi have come under attack twice. When there was instability and protests under Gadaffi the US and other countries were quick to act but now the situation is quite different. Instead of intervention we have risk aversion.
The US hardly notices what is happening since it is busy discussing the attack on the US consul in Benghazi last year. What is happening in front of their noses now in Libya , the US press cannot be bothered covering. A Saudi researcher Nawaf Obaid, at the Harvard Kennedy School wrote recently in a report:“Libya has been thrown into chaos. Central authority has been decimated, and the new government is unable to reassert its authority over any significant section of the country. At present, the survivability of Libya in its present form over the next decade is highly in doubt."
The US is not willing to risk a military campaign that would probably unite most Libyanss against foreigners waging a campaign even if it is directed only against militants. US taxpayers probably are in no mood to finance any extensive intervention either. Drones could be used with little cost but the Libyan government probably would not sanction their use and if they did could face a deadly backlash.
There are already two plans scheduled to be implemented in Libya, the National Security Development Plan and the Rule of Law Development Plan. The EU is also scheduled to help Libya with border security beginning in June. However, it remains to be seen if these programs can be implemented given the present state of security and an impending shakeup in the government as a result of the political isolation law.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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