Benghazi must not overshadow big picture of Libyan security
May 12th, 2014
04:18 PM ET

Benghazi must not overshadow big picture of Libyan security

By Karim Mezran, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Karim Mezran is resident senior fellow at The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. The views expressed are the writer's own.

Of Libya’s manifold challenges, deteriorating security has occupied most of the international community’s attention, particularly in the aftermath of the tragedy in Benghazi that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in September 2012.

In the highly partisan Washington climate, the House of Representatives voted to establish a select committee to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of the event. But if the underlying goal is to protect U.S. diplomats and interests, the latest move misses the big picture. If the United States and its partners want to see security improved in the long run, it should instead renew its engagement with Libya and more robustly support its transition to democracy. After all, continued insecurity can have dire consequences not just for Libyans but for others too, as Benghazi illustrated.

Since the toppling of Gadhafi in October 2011, Libya has been gripped by chaos as the weak central government struggles to assert authority, inadvertently allowing centrifugal forces to gain momentum. Recent local election results suggest that, in the absence of state action and authority, a frustrated public is willing to cast a vote for elements that stand for operating outside of the law.

Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) has voted in a new prime minister. Although the results were initially disputed, Ahmed Mitig was sworn in as the country’s new caretaker leader. This presents an opportunity, in an otherwise murky landscape, for the international community to demonstrate its commitment to Libya’s political process.

In light of this latest opening, there are a few critical steps Libya’s partners can take to reverse the negative trends that hamper progress in the geostrategic North African country:

First, they should publicly and privately advocate for Libya’s national institutions. As demonstrated by the international community’s response to the Morning Glory tanker incident in which rogue elements tried to independently sell Libya’s natural resources, it is vital that the state know that it has the weight of its global partners behind it as it faces challenges to its authority. As polarized and ineffective as the GNC may be, for example, it is the country’s only legitimate entity insofar as it was elected by the people. Thus the international community must honor its choice of prime minister, urging Maiteg to form a unity government comprising high-level figures who transcend partisanship. This seems to be the prime minister’s intention, as he declared in his first broadcasted speech his intent to represent all Libyans and prioritize national reconciliation. Furthermore, the international community should exert all pressure to hold the GNC to task regarding its own promise of preparing for new legislative elections. Libya’s institutions are imperfect, but they are key to ensuring the country does not disintegrate into a nation without a state.

Second, the international community should work with the newly formed government to improve Libya’s institutional capacity to act. That is, implement the already-approved plans to train troops, police, and administrators. Further, it would be important to foster and support with technical and advisory assistance the government’s creation of inter-ministerial task forces to realize a select few well-defined infrastructure projects – for example, paving roads and refurbishing schools and hospitals. Such measures would demonstrate the Libyan authorities’ ability to act on promises, restoring their credibility in the eyes of the people.

Third, Libya’s political processes should be supported. Aside from the road map to new legislative elections to be held later this year, there are two additional tracks currently underway: the National Dialogue and constitution-writing. Slow but steady progress is being made on both fronts. A preparatory commission for the national dialogue has been organizing town halls in a nationwide outreach campaign to engage all demographics of Libyan society, hear their thoughts on what issues a national dialogue process ought to address, and to galvanize popular support for a conversation about the country’s direction. An inaugural session of the Constitutional Committee, tasked with drafting Libya’s new constitution, was held last month in the eastern town of Bayda, and new rounds of elections are being held to fill seats left vacant due to security threats and boycotts by certain groups. The two processes have great potential to complement each other and to create an inclusive political environment that makes Libyans of all stripes feel invested in the stake of their country’s future.

This would be a tremendous blow to the various forces seeking to undermine the transition to democracy in order to serve their parochial interests. There are many lessons the transitioning country can learn about national reconciliation and constitution-writing from other countries. The United States and the international community should therefore lend their knowledge, technical skills, and experience, and ensure that these processes in Libya succeed.

These measures would be the most constructive way for the United States to expend its resources in this North African country. It is time for the United States and other allies to look at the big picture and resolve to ensure long-term prosperity and security for all in Libya.

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Topics: Libya

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    May 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  2. Patrick

    Be quiet john smith. Sux to be you

    May 12, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • Die, Roem

      May 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  3. chrissy

    Whoa! That certainly wasnt very nice! One should NEVER wish death on someone!

    May 12, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      @chri§§y, wow. just so you know, that's definitely not me. Defending your home and family is one thing, but pushing a point is entirely another.

      May 12, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy, do you believe that anybody actually has the power to kill another person by wishing that that person were dead?
      Fortunately, murder by wishing is impossible. That's why it's not illegal.

      May 12, 2014 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  4. no but...

    ...people actually have the power to conjure a real ghost. It's true.

    May 13, 2014 at 2:41 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ no but...
      Oh, of course, if the ghost is real, it can certainly be conjured, but only a licensed conjurer is allowed to accept fees for that work.
      In my state, there is a controversial proposal to require prayer by an ordained minister before each professional seance.

      May 13, 2014 at 4:43 am | Reply
  5. stuart

    Lol. Never heard such B/S sound so real.
    Professional seance? A state liscense to conjure a ghost? Yea. Sure.

    May 13, 2014 at 8:11 am | Reply
  6. chrissy

    @ Joey, i didnt say anything like that! But karma is a b!t@# and wishing someone dead is just WRONG! And frankly i dont care if you agree or dont! And @ RZ you would be the LAST person i would expect to write that!

    May 13, 2014 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      Thank you chri§§y, I'm sure you guys know that I can be sneaky with the best of the worst too ya know. But it's certainly NOT something I prefer or enjoy doing, nor at all reflective of the intent of Zak's GPS blog or respectful of the readers who appreciative it. And on that note, I'm gonna hopefully zip it up for awhile myself. Gotta admit though, I don't miss our foul mouthed container freight friend at all. Nor Nando the Irradiator. Entirely eliminating your so called "perp" is not likely, but let's hope someone's working on a way to at least minimize it somehow.

      May 13, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
  7. chrissy

    I do recall getting my mouth smacked more than once as a child for saying those very same words. And it might've taken a bit but eventually i learned my lesson.

    May 13, 2014 at 9:32 am | Reply
  8. j. von hettlingen

    If the central government in Libya remains weak, there's a risk that the country would break up. Various parts of the country are in the hands of tribal militias. Tribal history is more important than allegiance to the central government, even long before Gaddafi usurped power. It will take years before the tribes can agree on common interests and goals.

    May 13, 2014 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Quite true j. von hettlingen, quite true indeed. We should have left Qaddaffy in power.

      May 13, 2014 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • ✠RZ✠

      It is a known fact that the King of the Jungle need only kill the Matriarch Hyaena to ensure a period of disorganization amongst the clan.

      May 13, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  9. rupert

    U are a good speller rz. I can't spell Hyaena . Now I can.

    May 14, 2014 at 9:35 am | Reply
  10. rupert

    Hyaenas are vicious wild dogs. Even lions are scared of them.

    May 14, 2014 at 9:36 am | Reply
  11. Jimmy

    The authors conclusion: “the US and int’l community should lend their knowledge, skills and experience to support the democratic process”. How can this be done if certain actors keep undermining the stability of the country? No stability equals no functioning democracy. The US can continue to funnel resources in Libya like it did with Iraq. With no Libyan actor that has a monopoly on violence, Libya will become like Iraq or Somalia.

    May 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  12. Bryan

    Lets forget everything about the cover up of the Benghazi terrorist attack on 9-11 and move forward with the talking points....said Jay Carney about the stability of the region, happily and willingly CNN agrees. wow...shocking, the Obama admin is not to blame!

    May 16, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  13. Kelly Else

    11/4/2016 @ 08:37:38: Thanks for the post globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com!

    http://summerworld-farfara-fouhy.info

    November 4, 2016 at 8:37 am | Reply

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