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Time to arm Libyan rebels: Here's how

The options available to the United States and its partners in Libya have sharply narrowed. As the US did in Bosnia, NATO and others must develop a train-and-equip program for the Libyan rebels that would help the opposition government gain control, oust Qaddafi, and establish a democracy.

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The insurrection in Libya against the 42-year dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi has turned into a military stalemate. The battle lines have moved back and forth in Libya’s crescent west of Benghazi, the opposition’s de facto capital. Mr. Qaddafi has consolidated control of western Libya, and his forces are laying siege to the city of Misurata, the last remaining opposition stronghold in the west. A proposal for negotiations and a ceasefire by the African Union was rejected out of hand by the opposition leadership on the grounds that it did not provide for removal of Qaddafi, his sons, and his inner circle. With Qaddafi showing no signs of leaving, the options available to the United States and its partners have sharply narrowed.

To let Qaddafi restore his control of Libya would diminish US credibility. A de facto partition of Libya would generate continued instability and could require an open-ended coalition mission to enforce the no-fly zone and protect the population. An even worse scenario would be if Libya became a failed state like Somalia and a sanctuary for terrorists in North Africa. That suggests an obvious option for the US and its partners: to engage with an alternative Libyan government and help it gain control of the country. At a meeting in Washington, the representative of the opposition Provisional Transitional National Council said that what the opposition forces need is arms, ammunition, and training.


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