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NATO, US must shore up Libya

Today, as Libyans mark the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, security conditions are bad and getting worse. Libya needs help training its security forces. Ideally, this would be a NATO mission. It could also be a US mission if NATO lacks the will.

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People hold Libyan flags in Benghazi Feb. 13 as preparations take place for today's celebration of the second anniversary of the revolt against Muammar Qaddafi. Op-ed contributor Christopher Chivvis writes: 'A smaller-scale training mission to help the Libyan government build reliable forces that will answer to the country’s elected leadership would do much to help the Libyan state get control over its own territory.'

Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

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In the 15 months since NATO ended its intervention in Libya, little has been accomplished to secure the hard-won gains of the war, and trends are headed in the wrong direction. It’s time to go back, lest Libya’s post-war transition run off the rails.

Today, as Libyans mark the second anniversary of the start of the revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi from power, security conditions here are bad and getting worse. There is violence in the South, major towns have been at war with each other in retribution for past deeds, and Islamic extremists are making inroads in the eastern province of Cyrenaica. Crime is on the rise. The post-revolutionary street is armed and restive.

The elected government is extremely disorganized and has no reliable security forces to address these problems. As it stumbles along trying to accomplish its state-building tasks, time is running out. Islamic militants, who do not represent the majority of the population, are taking advantage of the situation to increase their strength in the East. Violence and crime can easily spread. Stability would then erode and the gains won in the 2011 intervention could be wiped out.

Clearly, the last thing Libya needs is an Iraq-type occupation by outside powers. This would be unnecessary and counterproductive, not to mention unrealistic given the current mood in Washington and other NATO capitals.

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