Brussels e-briefings host: Richard Werly
Date: 21 September 2011
The following is a digest of the webinar discussions held on Thursday, 21st September, 2011, with our host Richard Werly.
- Col. Gaddafi and his group are not in position to regain power in Libya. The battle for their last strongholds, in Sirte and Beni Walid, may last for weeks as the ex-rebels have to be careful not to engage in urban warfare. NATO also has to be careful not to strike targets with high risks of collateral damages. But the balance of forces and the political power play is undoubtedly in favour of the democratic opposition led by the National Council for Transition (NCT). After 42 years in power, the Gaddafi regime now belongs to the past.
- There is a serious risk of armed destabilisation in the neighbouring countries bordering Southern Libya, namely Chad, Niger and Sudan. As Gaddafi forces and leaders have retreated mainly in the south, that is, those regions bordering the Sahara, there is the risk they might become mercenaries eager to fight on behalf of whoever pays them, or warlords eager to secure new strongholds of very lucrative trafficking taking place in this part of Africa. This is bad news as the Sahara region is already under the problematic influence of some Islamic groups affiliated with Al-Qaida. Expect turbulence to happen in these regions.
- NATO has secured in Libya an undeniable victory. Without NATO's strikes, regime change would have been impossible. Gaddafi's grip on power, with his security apparatus and stockpiles of weapons, would have crushed the rebellion in no time. Our conclusions, based on our field reports in Tripoli and Misrata, are that NATO was right to intervene to prevent massacres and has secured, therefore, a strong support among the Libyan population. It does not mean, however, that problems will not occure especially as political rivalries emerge. The fact that huge stocks of weapons have been found in Libya is the most problematic one.
- The Islamist threat, often pointed out, does not seem to be serious at the moment. The downfall of Tripoli was mainly due to the fact that military officers and soldiers from Gaddafi's regular forces shifted loyalty and helped the ex-rebels take control of the capital. At the moment, those security forces - though everybody wears civilian clothes - are still in power in Tripoli and they are certainly not pro-Islamists. The well-known figure of Abelhakim Belhadj, an ex-fighter in Afghanistan who was detained by the CIA and sent back to Libya to be tortured and detained by Gaddafi's secret police, does not seem yet to be in control of a large number of men. But as usual, the political situation is expected to be volatile and dynamic. Islamists will certainly appear to be an alternative to the rural, less educated population. Expect them to grow stronger, but for the moment, their goal is certainly not to face the West who has liberated Libya and is very popular among the vast majority of the population.
Questions? Post a comment below, or e-mail Richard Werly at firstname.lastname@example.org