On Jamestown What the Tuareg Do After the Fall of Qaddafi Will Determine the Security Future of the Sahel By: Andrew McGregor
At least 1,500 Tuareg fighters joined Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalist forces (though some sources cite much larger figures) in the failed defense of his Libyan regime. Many were ex-rebels residing in Libya, while others were recruited from across the Sahel with promises of large bonuses and even Libyan citizenship. Many of the Tuareg fighters are now returning to Mali, Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel, but for some the war may not yet be over; there are reports of up to 500 Tuareg fighters having joined loyalist forces holding the coastal town of Sirte, Qaddafi’s birthplace and a loyalist stronghold (AFP, September 3; September 5).

The Regional Dimension of the Libyan Regime’s Collapse

Media in the Malian capital have warned that the “defeated mercenaries” are back from Libya with heavy weapons and lots of money to prepare a new Tuareg rebellion, labeling themselves “combatants for the liberation of Azawad” (Le Pretoire [Bamako], May 9). Mali has not yet recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the new Libyan government; Mali’s reticence in recognizing the rebels as the new government in Libya may have something to do with the large investments made in Mali by the Qaddafi regime (L’Independant [Bamako], September 6). The Libyan leader has significant support in Mali and other parts of West Africa and a number of pro-Qaddafi demonstrations have been witnessed in Mali since the revolution began in February.

The new president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, has warned of Libya turning into another Somalia, spreading instability throughout the region:

The Libyan crisis amplifies the threats confronting countries in the region. We were already exposed to the fundamentalist threat, to the menace of criminal organizations, drug traffickers, arms traffickers... Today, all these problems have increased. All the more so because weapon depots have been looted in Libya and such weapons have been disseminated throughout the region. Yes, I am very worried: we fear that there may be a breakdown of the Libyan state, as was the case in Somalia, eventually bringing to power religious extremists (Jeune Afrique, July 30).

Algeria has its own concerns, fearing that instability in the Sahara/Sahel will provoke further undesirable French military deployments or interventions in the region.

Convoys Out of Libya

Tuareg troops escaping from Libya have been observed using 4X4 vehicles to cross into Niger (El Khabar [Algiers], August 29). On September 5, it was reported that “an exceptionally large and rare convoy” of over 200 military vehicles belonging to the southern garrisons of the Libyan Army entered the city of Agadez, the capital of the old Tuareg-controlled Agadez sultanate that controlled trade routes in the region for centuries (Le Monde, September 6; AFP, September 6). A number of people reported seeing Tuareg rebel Rhissa Ag Boula in the convoy (Le Monde, September 6). Ag Boula was last reported to have been under arrest in Niamey after re-entering Niger in April 2010 (see Terrorism Monitor Brief, April 17, 2010). Ag Boula mistakenly believed he was covered by a government amnesty against a death sentence passed in absentia for his alleged role in the assassination of a politician.

According to NATO spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie, the convoy was not tracked by the concentrated array of surveillance assets deployed over Libya: "To be clear, our mission is to protect the civilian population in Libya, not to track and target thousands of fleeing former regime leaders, mercenaries, military commanders and internally displaced people" (AFP, September 6). In a campaign that has seen NATO target civilian television workers as a “threat to civilian lives,” it is difficult to believe that a heavily-armed convoy of 200 vehicles containing Qaddafi loyalists was of no interest to NATO’s operational command. There has been widespread speculation that the convoy contained some part of Libya’s gold reserves, which were moved to the southern Sabha Oasis when the fighting began.

Nigerien foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum initially denied the arrival of a 200 vehicle convoy in his country, but admitted that Abdullah Mansur Daw, Libya’s intelligence chief in charge of Tuareg issues, arrived in Niger on September 4 with nine vehicles (Le Monde [Paris], September 8; AFP, September 5). Daw was accompanied by Agali Alambo, a Tuareg rebel leader who has lived in Libya since 2009 and was cited as a major recruiter of hundreds of former Tuareg rebels in Niger. Alambo later described escaping south through the Murzuq triangle “and then straight down to Agadez” after his party learned the Algerian border was closed and the route into Chad was blocked by Tubu fighters who had joined the TNC (Reuters, September 11). Daw and Alambo reached Niamey on September 5 with an escort of Nigerien military vehicles. Libya’s TNC has promised it will request the extradition of leading Qaddafi loyalists from Niger (AFP, September 10).

General Ali Kana, a Tuareg officer commanding government troops in southern Libya, was reported to have crossed into Niger on September 9 with a force of heavily armed troops (Tripoli Post, September 9). A former spokesman for the Tuareg rebel group Mouvement des nigériens pour la justice (MNJ) said that Kana was considering defecting after having angered Libyan Tuareg by leading an attack on a Tuareg town in Libya in which several Tuareg were killed, and by recruiting Tuareg mercenaries from Mali and Niger but failing to pay them the huge sums of cash he was given by Qaddafi for the purpose (AP, September 9). Ali Kana was reported to be with Libyan Air Force chief Al-Rifi Ali al-Sharif and Mahammed Abidalkarem, military commander in the southern garrison of Murzuq (AFP, September 10).

Some Tuareg returning from the Libyan battlefields expressed disenchantment with their time in Libya, complaining they were not allowed to fight in units composed solely of Tuareg (AFP, April 21). Others have complained they were never paid; one fighter said he was part of a group of 229 Tuareg recruited by Agali Alambo with a promise of a 5,000 Euro advance, but had never seen a penny (AFP, September 3). Others did receive smaller payments and the offer of Libyan citizenship. One Tuareg fighter described being assigned to a Tuareg brigade that was later attached to Khamis al-Qaddafi’s 32nd Mechanized Brigade for battles in Misrata and elsewhere (The Atlantic, August 31).

Some Tuareg leaders in Niger and Mali are urging Tuareg regulars of the Libyan Army to rally to the rebel cause and remain in Libya rather than return to Niger and Mali with their arms but little chance of employment. The tribal leaders have set up a contact group with the TNC to allow Tuareg regulars to join the rebels without threat of reprisal in an attempt to ward off a civil war in Libya (Reuters, September 4, Radio France Internationale, August 23). “Niger and Mali are very fragile states -- they could not take such an influx...” said Mohamed Anacko, the head of the Agadez regional council and a contact group member (Reuters, September 4). At the moment, however, crossing the lines to a disparate and undisciplined rebel army remains a dangerous proposition for Tuareg regulars closely identified with the regime.

The Tuareg may not be the only insurgents forced out of Libya; there are reports from Chadian officials that over 100 heavily armed vehicles belonging to Dr. Khalil Ibrahim’s Darfur-based Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) had crossed the Libyan border. Ibrahim had taken refuge in Libya after losing his bases in Chad to a Chadian-Sudanese peace agreement. JEM denied knowledge of the movement and also denied receiving weapons from Libya (AFP, September 9).

The Libyan Tuareg

Besides the West African Tuareg who rallied to Qaddafi, Libya is home to a Tuareg community of roughly 100,000 people, though the regime has never recognized them as such, claiming they are only an isolated branch of the Arab race. Though some Libyan Tuareg have opposed Qaddafi, many others have found employment in the Libyan regular army, together with volunteers from Mali and Niger. As a result, many Libyans tend to identify all Tuareg as regime supporters. Near the desert town of Ghadames local Tuareg were threatened by rebels seeking to expel them from the city before Algeria opened a nearby border post and began allowing the Tuareg to cross into safety on August 30 (Ennahar [Algiers], September 1; El Khabar [Algiers], September 5). Five hundred Algerian Tuareg were reported to have crossed into Algeria while the border remained open (Le Monde, September 8). Some of the refugees promised to settle their families in Algeria before crossing back into Ghadames with arms to confront the rebels (The Observer, September 2).

The Death of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga

The most prominent of the Tuareg rebel leaders, Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, was reported to have died in a vehicle accident in Tin-Essalak on August 26 after having spent most of the last two years as an exile in Libya (Tout sur l’Algérie [Algiers], August 29). [1] It was widely believed in Mali that Ag Bahanga was preparing a new rebellion with weapons obtained from Libyan armories (Nouvelle Liberation [Bamako], August 17; Ennahar [Algiers] August 27).

He was reportedly buried within hours, preventing any examination of the cause of death despite some reports his body showed signs of having been shot repeatedly. Some claim that Ag Bahanga was actually killed by other Tuareg in a dispute over weapons, though others in Mali have suggested the Tuareg rebel leader was killed by a landmine or even a missile after his Thuraya cell phone was detected by French intelligence services, though it seems unlikely the veteran rebel would make such a mistake (L’Indépendant [Bamako], August 30; Le Pretoire [Bamako], September 6; Info Matin [Bamako], August 29). Despite Ag Bahanga’s resolute opposition to the Malian regime, President Ahmadou Toumani Touré was reported to have sent a delegation to Kidal province to offer official condolences on the rebel’s death (Le Republicain [Bamako], August 29). Ag Bahanga was a noted opponent of the political and military domination of Mali by the Bambara, one of the largest Mandé ethnic groups in West Africa (Jeune Afrique, September 8).

The veteran Tuareg rebel had many enemies, including the Algerians, who were incensed by his refusal to adhere to the 2006 Malian peace agreement mediated by Algiers. His rebellion only came to an end when former Tuareg rebels and Bérabiche Arabs joined a Malian government offensive that swept Ag Bahanga and many of his followers from northern Mali in 2009 (see Terrorism Focus, February 25, 2009).

Ag Bahanga returned to Libya, where he became an active recruiter of Tuareg fighters from across the Sahel when the Libyan revolution broke out in February (L’Essor [Bamako], August 29). One returning fighter described seeing Ag Bahanga fighting with loyalist forces at Misrata: “He was with many former rebels from Mali. They were fighting hard for Qaddafi” (The Atlantic, August 31).

If the many reports of Ag Bahanga shipping large quantities of heavy and light weapons and large numbers of 4X4 trucks back to Mali are true, Ag Bahanga was about to become an extremely powerful man in the Sahel. His death will satisfy many, but there are still concerns about the dispersal of his arms, which would certainly be of interest to buyers from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has developed contacts with some young Tuareg by employing them as drivers and guides in unfamiliar territory.

In an interview conducted only days before his death, Ag Bahanga expressed discontent with his one-time patron, offering what might be a bit of revisionist history: “The Tuareg have always wanted Qaddafi to leave Libya, because he always tried to exploit them without any compensation… The disappearance of al-Qaddafi is good news for all the Tuareg in the region…We never had the same goals, but rather the opposite. He has always tried to use the Tuareg for his own ends and to the detriment of the community. His departure from Libya opens the way for a better future and helps to advance our political demands… Al-Qaddafi blocked all solutions to the Tuareg issue… Now he's gone, we can move forward in our struggle” (El Watan [Algiers], August 29). Ag Bahanga, who at one point had unsuccessfully offered to turn his rebel movement into a transnational security force capable of expelling al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from the Sahel/Sahara region, also came out against AQIM’s Salafi-Jihadists: “Our imams advocate and educate our youth and families against the religion of intolerance preached by the Salafists, which is in total contradiction with our religious practice. In fact, on an ideological level, the Salafis have no control over the Tuareg. We defend ourselves with our meager resources, and we envision a day soon be able to bring Bamako to account” (El Watan, August 29).


Hundreds of thousands of workers have returned to Niger and Mali, which are unable to provide employment to the returnees. There are also 74,000 workers returning to Chad. Moreover, the loss of remittances from their work in Libya will devastate many already marginal communities reliant on such transfers. Many of the returnees suffered rough treatment at the hands of rebels who consider all black Africans and Tuareg to be mourtazak (mercenaries). Motivation, money, arms and a lack of viable alternatives form a dangerous recipe for years of instability in the Sahel/Sahara region, particularly if it is fueled by a political cause such as the restoration of the Qaddafi regime or the establishment of an independent Tuareg homeland.

Ana Ag Ateyoub has been mentioned as the most likely rebel leader to succeed Ag Bahanga. Ag Ateyoub has a reputation for being a great strategist but is considered more radical than Ag Bahanga (L’Essor [Bamako], August 29; August 30). Ag Bahanga’s group remains a regional security wild card. If their late leader was actually intending to launch a new rebellion in Mali with high-powered arms obtained in Libya, will the group follow through with these plans?

Former security officials of the Qaddafi regime recently told a pan-Arab daily that Libyan intelligence has conducted extensive surveys of the more inaccessible parts of the country and areas of Niger and Chad while building ties to the local populations in these places (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 8). According to a TNC report based on a communication from the former Libyan intelligence director Musa Kusa, Qaddafi is now moving between al-Jufrah district in the center of the country, home to a strategically located military base and airstrip at Hun, and the remote Tagharin oasis near the Algerian border, where he is guarded by Tuareg tribesmen (al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 5).

Much of southern Libya and its vital oil and water resources remains outside rebel hands and might remain that way for some time if the Tuareg oppose the new rebel regime in Tripoli. It is possible that Qaddafi may threaten the new government from the vast spaces of southern Libya if he can gain the cooperation of the Tuareg. Despite signs of disenchantment with Qaddafi among the Tuareg tribesmen, there is still the lure presented by the vast sums of cash and gold loyalist forces appear to have moved south on behalf of Qaddafi, who has always understood the need to keep a few billion in cash under the mattress, just in case.

Tuareg rebel leader Agali Alambo believes Qaddafi could lead a prolonged counter-insurgency from the deserts of southern Libya: “I know the Guide well, and what people don’t realize is that he could last in the desert for years. He didn’t need to create a hiding place. He likes the simple life, under a tent, sitting on the sand, drinking camel’s milk. His advantage is that this was already his preferred lifestyle… He is guarded by a special mobile unit made up of members of his family. Those are the only people he trusts” (Fox News, September 13).

Though small in numbers, Tuareg mastery of the terrain of the Sahara/Sahel region, ability to survive in forbidding conditions and skills on the battlefield make them a formidable part of any security equation in the region. Historically, the Tuareg have been divided into a number of confederations and have rarely achieved a consensus on anything, including support for the Libyan regime or the ambitions of those seeking to establish a Tuareg homeland. However, the collapse of the Saharan tourist industry due to the depredations of AQIM and a worsening drought in the Sahel that is threatening the pastoral lifestyle of the Tuareg will only enhance the appeal of a well-rewarded life under arms. The direction of Tuareg military commanders and their followers, whether in support of the Qaddafi regime in Libya or in renewed rebellion in Mali and Niger, will play an essential role in determining the security future of the region, as well as the ability of foreign commercial interests to extract the region’s lucrative oil and uranium resources.

Andrew McGregor is Director of Aberfoyle International Security, a Toronto-based agency specializing in security issues related to the Islamic world.


1. For a profile of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, see Andrew McGregor, “Ibrahim Ag Bahanga: Tuareg Rebel Turns Counterterrorist?” April 2, 2010. See also Terrorism Monitor Briefs, November 4, 2010.
My bold, this is a recipe for trouble, the Sahel is now awash with arms, mercenaries and impoverished migrant labour fleeing the rebel's abuses.

This is very interesting. The weapons and supplies would be welcomed, however IMO they would not be a game changer but would make for a great reserve i.e. FPF (final protective fire) if a base of theirs was attacked.

I find it curious, how the U.S. spent so much time recently trying to find a host nation in Africa for its new African command headquarters.

Now the need appears to be so much greater, and they have one with great ports sweet crude oil and all.

Note the fallowing is my personal customary (e) signature signing. IKYG stands for " I'll kill you god" its a personal thing. G-day, is just "good day".

"I well bet my lucky star" IKYG



On The National Interest The Libyan Weapons Lollapalooza by Malou Innocent
The White House is in full-scale damage-control mode amid reports that a significant number of the 20,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles Libya possessed before the war have gone missing. Among the many other costs and consequences of intervening in Libya, it seems neither the United States nor NATO fully considered the possibility of conventional proliferation before entering the conflict.

The AFP reports that Senator Barabara Boxer (D-CA) was quick to react to this news—somewhat hysterically—and wrote to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, arguing that the United States should “equip wide-body passenger jets with anti-missile countermeasures.” She writes that “while many US military aircraft are outfitted with defenses against these deadly weapons, commercial aircraft remain at risk.” Boxer, who strongly defended Obama’s no-fly zone-cum-regime-change operation in Libya, may want to pay attention to more than just portable missiles.

Another worrying weapon is semtex, a plastic explosive once manufactured in the Czech Republic. According to a reliable U.S. military source this author spoke to, the semtex Libya has is the old school, early-Cold War variety made before the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to add sniffer agents to make it detectable.

The weapons free-for-all in Libya may or may not risk destabilizing the region, but it is reasonably safe to assume that had the U.S. and NATO not intervened, the Libyan conflict—along with its weapons—might have been self-contained.

UPDATE: ABC's Brian Ross reported on the missing missiles and included pictures and video taken by Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch walking through arms depots in Libya littered with empty crates. The "20,000" figure being bandied about was first noted back in April by Gen. Carter Ham, chief of U.S. Africa Command. In response to ABC's report, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States is now planning to send more people to secure the armed storage sites. These missing weapons were at first met with calls by some in Congress to add military-style protection to nearly 500 passenger planes. Now, as confirmed by Carney and the White House in its mysterious "secret meeting" today,these missing weapons allow for an expanded U.S. presence. It should be evident to anyone that it won't be easy to track these missiles down and retrieve them. But in keeping with the spirit of the mission, it seems officials will worry about the consequences of an expanded U.S. presence after extra forces have been deployed.
My bold, conservatively it would cost about a million bucks/airframe to install SAM countermeasures. Boxer is a great fan of security theatre, still if anyone waves a liberated Libyan SA-7 at a Jumbo she might get her way. There have been about 40 attacks on civil aviation with SAMs since the mid 70s, about two thirds resulting in crashes.

We all know what Semtex can do, that Yemini AQAP master bomb maker would surely like some.


On Jamestown Briefs

Muhammad Bashir al-Khaddar, a senior military judge in the Qaddafi regime for 25 years, has provided inside details of the workings of the regime in an interview with a pan-Arab daily (al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 17). Al-Khaddar’s revelations appear to be an attempt to rehabilitate his image in advance of running as a candidate in the elections expected to follow the consolidation of the rebel victory in Libya.

Among the issues discussed by al-Khaddar was the infamous 1996 two-day massacre of Islamist prisoners at Tripoli’s Abu Salim Prison, run by Libya’s Internal Security Agency (Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation, July 26, 2008; see also Terrorism Focus Brief, July 29, 2008). It was protests over the Libyan regime’s continued failure to provide details of exactly what happened at Abu Salim that sparked the ongoing revolution in February.

According to al-Khaddar, he was assigned to investigate the massacre of over 1200 prisoners by acting Defense Minister General Abu Bakr Yunus Jabir following a 2009 court order for the government to release information on missing militants, but al-Khaddar admits that he knew little of the incident at the time, “believing that it was nothing more than a group of prisoners who attempted to escape, with between four and ten prisoners being killed…” (al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 10, 2009; see also Terrorism Monitor Briefs, September 17, 2009). Official documents were “useless” to his investigation and interviews with prison officers unproductive (e.g. “I was eating lunch [when the massacre took place]”), so al-Khaddar changed tack and interviewed the prison officers in their homes, yielding much better results, though his investigations were still hampered by the fact that those responsible for ordering the massacre remained in power.

Al-Khaddar gave a figure of 1,257 dead in the slaughter that followed after Islamists and some “ordinary people” demanded their rights as prisoners and an improvement in conditions. Though the judge was unable to find documentation or conduct interviews directly implicating Libya’s leaders in ordering the massacre, al-Khaddar is convinced the orders came from the top: “When you are dealing with Libya you must be aware of one important truth; Mu’ammar Qaddafi was even aware of when a chicken was slaughtered. Although there is nothing on paper, telephone calls did take place between Qaddafi and [Qaddafi brother-in-law and then head of Libyan military intelligence] Abdullah Senussi…and this resulted in the order to fire.”

Qaddafi refused to read the report until convinced to do so by General Mustafa al-Kharrubi, a member of the original Libyan Revolution Command Council that seized power in 1969. The Libyan leader was displeased by al-Khaddar’s efforts, but the outbreak of the revolution in February spared al-Khaddar from the wrath of Qaddafi, who suddenly had more pressing concerns. General al-Kharubbi was reported to have surrendered to the rebels in late August (al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 25). However, al-Khaddar says he no longer has a copy of the report since he fled the country in February and urges the rebels to find it and read it. The Libyan judge claims he feared for his life once the revolution broke out: “I was afraid of being assassinated because the Abu Salim [massacre] is at the heart of the 17 February revolution.”

Al-Khaddar says he was also placed in charge of the investigation into the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr as Chief Prosecutor of Tripoli. Musa Sadr, the Iranian-born founder of the Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniya (AMAL - Lebanese Resistance Detachments), disappeared along with two companions during a 1978 visit to Tripoli.

Despite the passage of 33 years since the disappearance, there have been constant rumors that the Imam was still alive in a Libyan prison. Only a few months ago, Hezbollah leader Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah expressed his hope that al-Sadr (who would now be 81-years-old) would soon be released after Libyan officers fleeing to Egypt reported he was still alive: “We are looking forward to the day when Sadr can be liberated from this dictatorial tyrant” (al-Manar, March 20; al-Arabiya, February 23). Libya has long claimed the three men left Libya for Italy in 1978, but Italian officials state the men never entered the country. Sa’if al-Qaddafi admitted in an interview with Iranian TV in February that al-Sadr and his companions had never left Libya (Press TV, February 22). Mu’ammar Qaddafi was indicted in 2008 by a Lebanese judge for kidnapping al-Sadr (Now Lebanon, August 27, 2008; Press TV, August 27, 2008).

Al-Khaddar’s account would seem to partially confirm details provided earlier by Abd al-Moneim al-Houni, Libya’s former ambassador to the Arab League, who claimed in an interview that al-Sadr had been shot and killed by the regime and buried somewhere in southern Libya (al-Hayat, February 23).

Al-Khaddar, citing guards who witnessed the event, claims that al-Sadr met with Qaddafi, but their five hour meeting degenerated into a vicious religious argument in which al-Sadr told the Libyan leader he was “an infidel,” while Qaddafi came close to physically assaulting the Imam. On Qaddafi’s order al-Sadr was then killed and buried in Sirte, but his body was later transferred to Sabha in the Libyan interior and then moved to another location in the south. Al-Khaddar said a body had been discovered in a freezer in Tripoli on September 16 that might belong to Abbas Badr al-Din, a Lebanese journalist who accompanied al-Sadr to Libya, though al-Khaddar speculates that the body of al-Sadr’s other companion, Shaykh Muhammad Yaqub, was likely hidden in a cemetery.

Al-Khaddar also insisted that former Libyan foreign minister Ibrahim al-Bashari and former Libyan justice minister Ibrahim Bakkar were both murdered on Qaddafi’s orders. According to the Libyan judge, al-Bashari was killed in al-Khums, a coastal district between Tripoli and Misrata, which al-Khaddar claims was a preferred killing ground for the regime.

Al-Khaddar, who is considering a run at president once elections are held, suggests that long-term officials in the Qaddafi regime should not be overlooked in forming a new government: “Everyone who served in the Qaddafi regime who kept his hands clean and did not seize public money should have a large role in governing Libya. The current method of removing all those who worked with Gaddafi should be avoided.
On The National Interest The Libyan Weapons Lollapalooza by Malou InnocentMy bold, conservatively it would cost about a million bucks/airframe to install SAM countermeasures. Boxer is a great fan of security theatre, still if anyone waves a liberated Libyan SA-7 at a Jumbo she might get her way. There have been about 40 attacks on civil aviation with SAMs since the mid 70s, about two thirds resulting in crashes.

We all know what Semtex can do, that Yemini AQAP master bomb maker would surely like some.

The cheapest way to counter MANPADS is countermeasures round the airport, not on the aircraft. Airlines hate the idea, not just because carrying extra weight means burning extra fuel, but because of the liability issues of inadvertant operation over populated areas.


The cheapest way to counter MANPADS is countermeasures round the airport, not on the aircraft. Airlines hate the idea, not just because carrying extra weight means burning extra fuel, but because of the liability issues of inadvertant operation over populated areas.
THat's a good point, they even optimize the amount of water planes carry to save fuel. I think how this is approached might be more to do with which provider has better lobbyists on The Hill than anything though.

On plane countermeasures are expensive, the airline industry has pretty narrow profit margins and was pretty resistant even to armoring cockpit doors, a much cheaper option.

From Homeland Security: Protecting Airliners from Terrorist Missiles (2006)
...An analysis by the RAND Corporation found that, in
addition to an initial purchase and installation cost of about $11 billion, it would cost
about $2.1 billion annually in terms of both direct and indirect or incidental costs to
maintain and sustain aircraft-based IR countermeasures on a fleet of 6,800 passenger
Equipping aircraft with missile countermeasure systems has advantages.
Countermeasures are fixed to the aircraft, require little or no flight crew intervention,
and can protect the aircraft even when operating in areas where ground-based security
measures are unavailable or infeasible to implement. Down sides include a high
cost, and potentially undermining passenger confidence in the safety and security of
air travel. Also, because implementation will take time, countermeasures cannot
immediately mitigate today’s terrorist threat. Procedural improvements such as flight
crew training, changes to air traffic management, and improved security near airports
may be less costly than countermeasures and could more immediately help deter
domestic terrorist attacks. However, these techniques by themselves cannot
completely mitigate the risk of domestic attacks and would not protect U.S. airliners
flying to and from foreign airport


In the NYRB The Strange Power of Qatar by Hugh Eakin
From this perspective, Qatar’s involvement in the Arab uprisings, and its remarkable military intervention in Libya, may take on a different cast. “They have been playing a deep game,” Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a specialist in politics and security in the Gulf at the London School of Economics, told me. By taking the lead in Arab world support for the Libyan rebels, he suggested, the emirate has not merely put itself on the side of revolutionaries (and in its direct support for various individual rebel leaders maximized its chances of picking an ultimate winner); it has also allowed Qatar and other Gulf states that have followed suit to show they are responsible members of the international community, while deflecting attention from the Gulf itself. For Qatar, at least, promoting democracy abroad and investing lavishly in a comparatively young population at home have allowed the emir to stay ahead of the changes sweeping through the region, all the while strengthening his hold on power.
Worth reading the rest.


War Hero
The UN resolution was to protect the civilians being killed by the government using tanks and artillery, now that the rebels are the government and they are using tanks and artillery on Sirte, why isn't the RAF protecting the civilians in Sirte?

Is it because some of these civilians are fighting back against government forces attacking their city, making them legitimate targets? Isn't that what the rebels were doing in March?

Sent via Tapatalk


On FP Libya’s Sexual Revolution BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER
How the uprising turned young Libyan men from hopeless layabouts into marriageable heroes.

JANZOUR, Libya – When it comes to love, Muammar al-Qaddafi's Libya was unlucky for unmarried 33-year-old truck driver Ahmed Nori Faqiar. His looks would have benefited if his parents could ever have sprung for a dentist. Lack of means forced him to live unhappily at his childhood home well into adulthood. Marriage, a home of his own, kids -- all are dreams that the wiry Libyan had long ago steeled himself to stop hoping for.

"Before, I was not even daring to look at girls as wife material, because I knew I could not afford" to get married, say Faqiar now.

These days, though, Faqiar wears the mismatched camouflage of Libya's rebels and a dashing bandana on his head, pirate-style. He carries a gun. He is a veteran of battles for Libyans' freedom from Qaddafi's regime -- and it's the women who are talking to him.

"Girls around the area come up to you and say, ‘Thank you! You made us proud, you made us happy,'" Faqiar told me one night recently. He spoke on the sidelines of a camel and couscous feast that the people in this Tripoli suburb threw for several thousand young rebels, after slaughtering 10 camels.

From a specially raised dais, speakers praised the young rebel fighters late into the evening. Hundreds of excited young women and girls in head scarves mingled near rifle-toting young men, a novelty in this conservative country that was overwhelming to members of both genders in the crowd that night. "It's like a wedding!" Faqiar exclaimed, shaking his head in surprise.

Relations between Libyan men and women -- deeply distorted by the eccentric Libyan leader's refusal to provide normal opportunities for Libya's young people -- have changed "100 percent" in the days since Qaddafi fell, the young rebel said. His comrades listening around him voiced agreement.

"Thank God," Faqiar added.

Nearby, young women -- a group of cousins and neighbors, clustered together, in long skirts and shirts and head coverings -- said the same, and laughed about taking their pick of a husband from among the rebels when the war was done.

Before the revolution, young men her age "were just lazing around in the streets, no future. I didn't care about them at all," said Esra'a el-Gadi, 20. "Now I look at them in a totally new light -- they stood up against Qaddafi. It's something."

"We saw them as lost youth, unemployed," Rahana el-Gadi, 19, said of men of her generation. "Now we were surprised, so surprised to see what they're capable of," she added.

"We dream of the day they come back, and we welcome them."

Jokes passed by cell phone text messages across Libya confirm the newfound eligibility of the young civilians turned fighters.

"Forget doctors and engineers: We want to marry a rebel," one of the widely circulated text messages goes. "Looking for a rebel to wed?" another SMS asks: "Press 'M' for a husband from Misrata, 'B' for a husband from Benghazi..."

But Libya is still a deeply observant Islamic country, and very few -- if any -- of those unacquainted young men and women were actually talking to each other during the night of rallying that followed the camel feast. Only once in my visit last month, in Tripoli's Martyrs Square, packed with celebrating crowds each night since Qaddafi's overthrow, did I see a tall, armed rebel and a young woman in headscarf with their cell phones out, exchanging numbers. The young male Libyan activist I was with watched as the rebel and young woman appeared to head out of the square together, a discreet 10 feet apart. "This has never happened before," my Libyan colleague said, shocked.

But the budding of wartime romance means a lot more in Libya than merely giddiness at overthrowing a four-decade old dictatorship.

With dictators falling in much of the Middle East and North Africa, Arab men and women in newly liberated nations hope to redress one of the most profound and damaging iniquities wrought by rulers like Qaddafi -- the lack of economic opportunity that stunted every aspect of the lives of the region's youth.

The Arab region has the second-largest percentage of young people in the world. Almost two out of every three Arabs are under 30, a level exceeded only in sub-Saharan Africa. And the Middle East and North Africa boast both the highest youth unemployment and unemployment overall on the planet.

Years ago, political scientists, including Diane Singerman, began using the term "waithood" to describe the crippled outlook for the young generations of the Arab world. Unable to find jobs, or jobs that paid a living wage, millions of young Arabs were fated to live unhappily at home, unable to afford marriage. And in conservative Islamic societies, marriage for many is the only launch there is into independence, dignity, and a life of one's own.

In effect, for young Arabs of ordinary means, "If they're unemployed, they have no hope of becoming adult," Singerman, an associate professor at American University in Washington, D.C. told me earlier this year.

Around the region, the average age of marriage has edged up -- and not, for most, because millions of young Arab men and women were enjoying their single years.

Young Libyans had it especially bad. Qaddafi didn't just fail to develop well-paying jobs for the young -- he destroyed jobs with erratic socialist schemes that warped Libya's economy. So much so, in fact, that the Libyan government officially estimated unemployment in recent years at 20 percent, twice that of the already high regional rate.

As U.S. diplomats in Libya noted in a 2009 WikiLeaked cable that looked closely at the country's high rate of waithood, that more than 60 percent of those Libyans lucky enough to have jobs worked for the state. Qaddafi, quixotically, had blocked wage increases in most of those jobs for decades. Most employed Libyans I spoke with said they made only a few hundred dollars each month. Despite Libya's vast oil wealth, gross domestic product per capita is less than $10,000.

A single wedding can cost almost that much in Libya, young Libyan men told me. Marriage in Libya is particularly expensive, with days of celebration and gold-laden dowries expected. Housing is in short supply, but suitors are expected to line up an apartment before the wedding.

The result was countless hard-luck stories. On a 2007 visit, I met a Tripoli family of six educated brothers and sisters in their 20s and 30s -- all of whom, male and female, had already bought outfits for their future weddings, which none had any hope of actually affording. The stories of most Libyan young men I met, then and again this year, were variations on the same theme.

"What he's saying, it's all of us," said the Libyan man in his 20s who translated for me as I talked to Faqiar, the rebel fighter, about his lack of prospects before the revolution.

No one in Libya's regime seems to have bothered to have tracked precise figures. Libyan women have a perception that there is a shortage of marriageable young men, both because of the death tolls of Qaddafi's military adventures in Chad and elsewhere and because of the lack of jobs.

"If you tried to count the number of spinsters among us, you couldn't, you'd make mistakes -- there are too many," said Rahana el-Gadi, the 19-year-old young woman at Janzour's rally for the young rebels.

The unease over the lack of opportunity for marriage was reflected in the unexpected declaration last weekend, in a victory speech by the head of Libya's opposition national council, that the new Libya would reinstate polygamy, which Qaddafi had limited. But because, according to Islam, only those with the means to support all wives equally can take more than one, easing the way for polygamy would seem likely to make it worse for Libya's unmarried young men of modest means.

So did all this frustration really have an impact on the course of the revolution in Libya?

In 2009, an Economist article mentioned the Arab world's "waithood" problem but shrugged off any possible political impact. "Hardly the stuff of which political revolutions are generally made," the magazine wrote.

Young Arabs, post-revolution, told me differently. In Janzour, I asked Faqiar how much his lack of hope for a normal life -- a job, marriage, a home, kids -- played into his decision to take up arms. "100 percent," he said, not smiling.

Around the region this year -- in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen -- many, though not all, young protesters and fighters told me the same. "All of them, they had nothing to lose. They saw their life wasting away," Israa Khalil, a 25-year-old woman in Tripoli, said of her male friends and relatives. "So they all went to fight."

For years, Arab leaders and others treated the youth bulge and delayed marriage as "kind of like a funny thing," Singerman told me. The attitude was, "This is a cultural thing so we shouldn't pay attention to it. They're not laughing anymore."

With the tyrant now out of the way, transitional leaders have pledged to raise the artificially low Qaddafi-era wages. Young Libyans -- whether fighters, activists, or onlookers -- say they have new hope of their lives getting better as their country shakes off four decades of Qaddafi's weirdness and isolation.

Already, Khalil and a group of young women in Tripoli told me, men and women have shed the Qaddafi-era notion of the other sex as representing dangerous, impossible entanglements, since all knew few suitors could afford marriage.

In the "family" section of a Tripoli café, Khalil told me a story of one evening in the revolution, in August. At sunset, with gunfire blasting around their homes, she and other women and girls burst out of their houses, sprinting with water and sandwiches to young fighters who had been observing the daytime fast of Ramadan.

The women trilled their tongues as they ran, trying to lift the spirits of this unknown band of rebels on their way to a front. Moved, the fighters had tears in their eyes as they accepted the food, Khalil said.

Before, "there was a barrier," and Libya's hapless young men were to be pitied, Khalil said. "Now, he's the man who protected me," Khalil said. "Since the revolution I have the confidence to go up and tell them 'Thank you," and that in turn gives them confidence in themselves. And we know we were part of this. And they know we were part of this."


Read this and weep: Libya after Gaddafi: new freedoms and songs of revolution bring same old fears | World news | The Guardian

Am stuck at a one-donkey town on the Tunisia-Libya border as the NTC now have the luxury of deciding whether or not to let in journos, but will update when I'm back in country, inshallah.

Cycle of revenge hangs over Libya's fragile peace | Reuters

Libya is plunging into a cycle of tribal violence and retribution which, if left unchecked, could undermine the authority of its new leaders, spur new forms of insurgency and throw the country back into chaos.

More than a week after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, anger is on the boil again with what many Libyans see as the inability of the interim government to rein in its brigades and stop a wave of revenge attacks.

Hope there is a bar where you can put your feet up.
Been in Tripoli the past few days. Bit mental. Apologies in advance for the length of this post.

Today saw the fourth consecutive day of fighting between the Zawiya tribe, from the city of Zawiya, about 50km west of Tripoli, and the Warshefena, about 10-20km closer to the capital.

The bone of contention was apparently a small fort, Base 27, so called becuase it's 27km from the capital. It may or may not have belonged to the Khamis Brigade before the fall of the regime.

Casualty figures- and the actual trigger- remained unclear, so I went off to have a look.

Got to the Warshefena checkpoint at about 1130 this morning. Lots of technicals mounted with 14.5s there, lots of brass from the Tripoli Brigade wandering about and giving quotes. Maybe 50 or 60 fighters in all.

What's going on, I asked a commander. Nothing, nothing, there was a bit of a fight between kids from two tribes, but it's all over now [sound of sustained rifle fire in field to the right] Any casualties today? No, no, of course not. Yesterday then? Yesterday fine, nobody killed, this is lies. You're saying no-one was killed yesterday? Of course, everything now fine, inshallah, just young ones causing trouble, firing in air. If you say there is fighting, all of Libya come to make fighting. The road is open...

And indeed, traffic was flowing through. So on we went.

To the next checkpoint, a few clicks along. Flagged down, ID checked. Be careful, they said, fighting ahead, at bridge. Lots of crates of 106mm and Grad ammo stacked about, lots of heavy AA pointing towards Zawiya. The traffic had thinned out by now... a plume of black smoke on the horizon.

We drove towards and under the bridge, past Base 27. Lots of technicals parked outside, a Zilka pointing towards Zawiya. No fighters visible.

Through olive groves to the next checkpoint. Significantly better kit, all pointing back towards Warshefena. Two T-72s, about 20 6-wheeled Panhards, recoilless rifles... ID checked, we move on to Zawiya. Far more fighters at this end, and more turning up all the time, beeping horns and shouting allah-u-akbar. Checkpoints every 200m or so as we drove into Zawiya. Hundreds of seriously tooled-up men smoking, drinking macchiata and scanning the horizon towards Warshefena.

We drove to the hospital, and met a consultant neurosurgeon. Is everything quiet today, I asked. Yes, hamdu'llah. Much better than yesterday. How many casualties yesterday? Here? Three dead [Four, butted in another doctor]. Four?, asked the first doctor. Four then, and 25 wounded. On our side. I think on their side between five and nine ten dead, and 45 wounded. But the commanders on the way here said no-one was killed. Who said that, the Warshefena? The NTC, I said, the Tripoli Brigade. They said that? We have four dead here from yesterday, one of them was in my family. What for, I asked, why are you fighting each other? I don't know, he said, none of us know why. They still think in the old way. How can we make a democracy like this? We shoot each other and each side shouts allah-u-akbar.

The second doctor took me to the ICU. There were six patients there, the others (the doctor said) had been flown to Tripoli or Tunisia. One was clearly in a bad way, his head entirely wrapped in blood-soaked bandages. The doctor didn't rate his chances. The others were manfully coping with (mostly) abdominal gunshot wounds or shrapnel trauma. They'd been hit throughout the evening and night before.

What were they saying, asked the doctor, on the other side? They said it was just kids, causing trouble. Just kids? They are Gadhafi, the Warshefena. They know how to aim their weapons, how to move. The thuwwar say they captured three, they were not from around here- they were from Bani Walid. You understand? But I cannot prove this, it is what they say. Why is this happening, I asked. I think there are hidden hands working here; they know how to make us fight each other. We all received text messages, saying the intifadha would start on the 11th of the 11th. How else do you explain this, not just here but in the mountains, in Gharyan? There was fighting in Tripoli last night, I told him [about an hour of what sounded like aimed rifle shots- it's hard to explain but they have a different tempo to celebratory gunfire, short bursts of HMG and loud booms, from Abu Salim]. You see, he said.

On the way back, we stopped at a katiba because I wanted to film the tanks on the road, and take a photo of a guy with a gold-painted AK. The officers told us we could go inside, so we did. Lots of 106s mounted on technicals, thuwwar milling around. As we were waiting to interview an officer, a technical drove in with a crowd of thuwwar standing in the back and shouting. They dragged out an African with blood dripping from his mouth and shoved him into a portacabin. Mercenary, one said. Can we film? No.

We were taken to a different portacabin where an officer- a lawyer before the war- pulled out a camcorder. From Friday, when we took Base 27, he said. Look. I looked. Dim scenes of men stamping on pictures of Gadhafi, shooting in the air and shouting allah-u-akbar. They still have his picture up on the wall, he said. And the green flag, the ahlam akhdar. They are all Gadhafi, the Warshefena.

We left, driving back towards Tripoli, and the atmosphere was perceptibly, but only just perceptibly different. Looking back now, the Zawiya had taken up firing positions. Convoys of technicals kept pulling up, and men were unloading long grey crates of Grad ammo.

We were waved through a checkpoint, and I slowly realised we were the only car on the road. For about 5km. As I was trying to explain the concept of a combat indicator to the driver a burst of rifle fire rang out from about 50m from us, from an olive grove to the right, in our direction. Then another, and another from the other side of the road. Warning shots, I think. The driver drove the car to a crawl onto the verge by an unfinished concrete villa. Terrifyingly, he took off his NTC baseball cap and hid it under his seat. What do we do? Go back? Past that field again, no ****ing way. Bomb it away? That might look suspicious. Drive slowly away? Too much of a target. We bombed it away. After another few long km of empty road we made it to a checkpoint. Slow to a halt, smile widely, say allah-u-akbar. You have come from there, asked the thuwwar, looking horrified. You are safe now. You are with the Warshefena.

At the next checkpoint, it was chaos. Civilian traffic was being turned back to Tripoli. A hundred or so fighters were crouching behind walls or in alleyways for cover, peering back down the road we'd come from. Technicals were screeching up and men piling out. A shouting crowd of men told us that the Zawiya had fired Grads at them. Why, I asked one. Why?! They are the Zawiya!

A group of NTC soldiers from Tripoli shoved them away and physically made us stop filming (hand over camera lens and everything, perfect end sequence). And that was that. What was it all about? I have absolutely no ****ing idea. And neither do they.

Pic: Zawiya tribesman and his glitzy gat, today.


Chivers has this in the NYT At Least Six Are Killed as Libyan Militias Clash on Coastal Highway Near Tripoli covers similar ground to Rumpie, mentions a background of attempts to disarm militias across the country.

A lot of whispers about foreign hands as is usual in Arab affairs. I read something yesterday about the Qataris having picked certain militia leaders to run the place rather than the NTC, the undemocratic Arab bounders, the NTC are our chaps.

There's this today on Bloomberg Jibril Turns Against Foreign Powers That Aided Qaddafi Overthrow By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Caroline Alexander
Former Terrorist

The Persian Gulf state has shown support for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a veteran anti-Qaddafi fighter who heads the Tripoli Military Council. The most powerful military figure in Libya today, Belhaj is a former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, and joined the Taliban after Sept. 11. He was picked up and held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 and sent to Libya, where he spent spent seven years in a prison until his release in 2010.

“The indicators on the ground say yes, that he is being supported by Qatar,” Jibril said.

When asked about the motivations for his resignation on Oct. 23, Jibril said that he had merely honored a commitment to step down once the regime fell. He was succeeded by Abdurrahim El-Keib, an engineer studied and taught in the U.S.

Jibril suggested that discord between the armed factions that fought to bring down the old regime also played a role.

“We used to have the same objective, we used to have Libyans as one hand,” Jibril said. “After the liberation, you know, things became completely different.”

Libyans started competing with each other and as a result, the country is divided, he said.


“We are having two types of legitimacy: an official legitimacy, as represented by the National Transitional Council and its government, and the real legitimacy on the ground, as represented by those people who have arms in their hands,” he said. It will take some time for that to change, he added.

Jibril expressed concern about the direction taken by the newly liberated country, where militia groups have refused to lay down their arms and revenge killings of Qaddafi’s tribe continue unabated.

“We are still in the heat of the moment,” Jibril said.

In the absence of political parties and rules to govern the interaction between factions, anything can happen, Jibril said, adding “this is very dangerous.”

Under current plans, Libyans will choose a panel to oversee the writing of a new constitution within eight months. That will be followed by a referendum and presidential and legislative elections.

“I think this is a very long phase” said Jibril, who advocates a shorter timeline to get to elections. “I am not quite comfortable with this political vacuum.”

Asked about his political future, Jibril said his next role will probably be that of a mentor to “the young people and women” who want to help shape Libya’s future.
My bold, the tricky bit begins and this may be as much generational as anything.

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
Mao Tse-Tung
In response to DrStealth's now-vanished post:

There are a lot of factions, and I don't have a handle on all of them.

1) The NTC. Formerly based in Benghazi, now in Tripoli. Now their muscle is the Libyan National Army, largely interchangeable with the Tripoli Brigade, controlled by:

2) Abdelhakim Belhadj. Funded by Qatar, and (according to their Irish military commander, the CIA). Belhadj is unpopular with Misrata: 'who is he? Where was he during the war? Suddenly he turns up in control of the army- there are hidden hands in this.'

3) Misrata. They've largely pulled out of Tripoli, and are considered heroes (and fellow Arabs) by the Tripolitans. They've hoarded all the heavy kit. In one day, they took 65 T-72s from Zliten... Especially popular in Tripoli compared to:

4) The Zintanis (mostly Berbers). Still in control of Tripoli international airport and the Regatta compound in Hay al-Andalus. Reviled as trigger-happy, drunken looters. Tripoli wants these guys to **** off back to the mountains, now. In some areas, like Suq al-Juma, checkpoints have been set up to prevent armed Zintanis entering: 'if they come here as guests, we will place them on our heads. But if they come to our mahala like Rambos again, we will give them back to their families as dust.'

5) The Cyrenaican Bedu. A minority want the monarchy back. I don't know what the current situation is there.

6) The South. Blacks, Tuaregs, Tebu. Again, no idea what's going on down there.

7) The Islamists. Some in their own katibas, a sprinkling in every katiba.

8) Tripolitan civvies. A more nuanced view of the revolution than I've seen elsewhere in Libya, many are angry at the growing disorder, most waver with the prevailing winds.
Just back from Libya, very very quiet compared to last time. Too quiet to justify expenses claims, hence my return.

Spent my time interviewing the main commanders of the different regional militias, jolly interesting.

Zintan (Tripoli commander, Mukhtar Lakhdar). A former regular Army colonel who, before the war, ran a succesful desert tourism company. When it kicked off, he found himself rich, well-trained and with a large supply of SUVs. Now he's one of the most powerful men in the country. His guys, half Berber, half Arab, as well as controlling everything west of Sabratha (and thus the supply routes to Tunisia), the western mountains, control Tripoli Airport and a 5km radius around. When Belhadj asked them to **** off home, they issued a warrant for his arrest. An ongoing situation, in which Saif is now a major bargaining chip. Oh yeah, they're also the biggest presence in Libya's Western chunk of the Sahara .

2) Misrata. Love these guys. I interviewed the top 3 on the military council, who began fighting on Feb 20th- two days after the first protests. Within those two days they'd captured arms depots and set up a secure bunker overlooking the whole of Misrata, which they used to call in airstrikes and watch their guys take the city house by house- I was the first journo to see it. They used it until June, when their war moved to Dafniya. They don't like Belhadj. In fact, they REALLY don't like Belhadj. All their heavy kit's stored in the former Khamis Bde barracks in Zliten. Mindblowing capability. The guys who won the battle for Misrata (and thus, I think, the war for Libya) are all former Air Force officers, some serving until Feb 17th at Libya's Cranwell equivalent, in Misrata. Mostly 50-something anglophiles in either tweed jackets and cords, bomber jackets or, charming West-friendly moderate Islamists in robes. Their commander in Tripoli (with a plush office, great baklawa and Turkish coffee served by a happy black and a machine-gun iPhone ringtone) is 33-yr-old Saadoon Sweilhi, descended from resistance hero Ramadan Sweilhi. Until the war he owned a construction company and a bureau de change. Now he exudes power. I can't see him going back to building apartment blocks.

Tripoli: aka Belhadj. I couldn't interview him. He only speaks to Al Jazeera. Distrusted as a Qatari puppet by many, idolised by many others in Tripolitania. I went to a revolutionary jamboree in a tiny country town called Msellata where he was the star attraction. Thousands were clambering to touch him as he swept away into his SUV, surrounded by a platoon's worth of heavily-bearded, HK416-toting bodyguards. One local chap started shouting 'we've had 40 years of this; we can't start making a hero of one man so soon, not again, and not him.' Brave guy.

Benghazi: I don't know what's going on there these days.

The big problem is creating a national army and disarming the militias. None of them want to disarm, none of them trust Belhadj. All consider themselves utterly loyal to Libya Hurra. The NTC is a total irrelevance.


Rumpelstiltskin, out of curiosity, because I've seen it being mooted elsewhere - from having your ear on the ground, do you think there's any chance of the restoration of Libya's monarchy? Things that I've read seem divided, some noting that there's a considerable nostalgic groundswell of affection for the monarchy and ethnic identification with it (at the very least, that photo of a boy holding a picture of King Idris on the war's Wikipedia article has been persistent), while others say that Tripolitanians would resent it as an eastern imposition. It occurs to me with all of these militias that you highlight, putting a king in the top spot would help to neutralise a power struggle - it's been said that the USA failing to restore the king in Afghanistan exacerbated the government kelptocracy and regional divisions that are still prevalent today - but while the NTC's prime minister did resign as he promised, would the other leaders and their big personalities step back themselves? Or did the topic never enter conversation?


That interesting Rumpy, good luck to them.

I see the NTC appointed Ashour Bin Hayal as foreign minister, so a Derna guy is now their face to the world. Defence went to Osama Al-Juwali of Zintan not Abdel Hakim Belhadj, he turned it down apparently. Interior to Fawzi Abdel A'al of Misrata. They are obviously trying to balance up the cities. Nobody frighteningly bearded included apparently. Judging by Belhadj's popularity in Tripolitania elections would be interesting especially with Qatar and Al Jaz on side.

I doubt if this gets settled politically. There was worried talk of Somalia in the run up to the war but it's starting to look more like a warlord set up that's weak at the center, Afghanistan but with oil. Don't think you can run a petro-state that way.
Ref the monarchy, I don't think that will fly with anyone other than a few Cyrenaican Bedu shaikhs. Part of Gadhafi's initial appeal in Western Libya- (and he was popular, everyone says how good he was... at first) was that he overthrew the overweening, corrupt Cyrenaican order. The main influential supporter of the Senoussi clan's return to the throne is the massively rich owner of a private TV station, a Cretan Muslim by descent (there are quite a few of them, up Benghazi way). Despite him pushing the idea on his channel, no-one's particularly enthusiastic about it.

Belhadj is an intersting one, and I can't say I understand or can predict him. Perhaps his importance has been overstated; he's certainly a divisive figure. Misrata would never allow him any position of real prominence, and I don't think his military position is as strong as it looks. The national army is practically nonexistant, and his Tripoli Brigade isn't especially strong. As for his popularity in places like Msellata, well, Msellata and rural Tripolitania (al-Khoms, Zliten etc) provided far more volunteers for Gadhafi's army during the war than it did for the thuwwar. Perhaps they just like strong men round those parts. His appeal, I suspect, is partly his heavy rotation on the most popular news channel, and partly the sense that he's keeping the provincial conquerors from running off with too many of the capital's spoils. I don't know how deep it actually runs.

What's encouraging is that all the militias assert loyalty to the ideals of the revolution, and a single, undivided Libya. I don't think Libya will look anything like as bad as 90s Afghanistan, though there is the potential for small clashes (like Zawiya/Imaya the other week) over tribal boundaries, grudges and the disinclination of the militias to hand in their arms. As of monday, the Zawiya were still manning their illegal checkpoint on the western highway, still with a swarm of Panhards around it facing Tripoli.

For another example, I went to Tawergha, until August a thriving town of c.30,000 black Libyans in the desert SE of Misrata. A lot of the Tawergha volunteered for the assault on Misrata back in the spring, and throughout the summer Gadhafi used Tawergha as a Grad base. When the Misratans broke through the Gadhafi lines in August, Tawergha got****ed up. I've never seen anything like it. Every single house and flat is empty, all the furniture overturned, every window smashed, all the best china shattered and clothes scattered about. Dead camels lie in the road where they were shot. Clouds of flies. The two thuwwar we were with were wandering around with slung AKs, PPKs in hand, shooting open locked doors and smashing or burning whatever took their fancy. Tawergha halas, they said. Tawergha is finished. This is New Misrata. Plumes of smoke from burning houses in every direction. Where did they go? I asked. To the desert, like the animals they are. Did many die here? Yes, they laughed, but they didn't know how many (so far one mass grave has been found, of 150 men; I don't think there's much of an inclination on anyone's part to look too hard for more). There were a lot of abandoned Govt uniforms in houses, and a lot of the Tawerghans had it coming. But I'm uncomfortable with what is clearly ethnic cleansing and collective punishment, particularly seeing as the ethnically Arab inhabitants of Zliten (who were actually militarily far more of an obstacle for Misrata) are living largely undisturbed, albeit under Misratan occupation. The problem is that Misrata suffered so much, and fought so hard, that it's difficult to keep a check on their desire for justice. And Libyan justice is swift, and harsh, as Gadhafi found.

The other danger is that the militias outstay their welcome in Tripoli by pushing their weight about too much. I saw a stand-off in the central hospital where the doctors all went on strike to protest a teenage Tripoli Bde thuwwar thumping a doctor he claimed harboured Gadhafi sympathies. A few pumped-up teenagers were too ready to dish out threats, too widely, for my liking. I'd be surpised if those particular kids had played any real role in the actual fighting.

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