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NATO, US must shore up Libya

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But 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. It would also demonstrate continued Western commitment and help increase US leverage with the Libyan government, which currently runs close to zero.

A training mission could begin on a relatively small scale. The footprint should be overt and large enough both to be meaningful to the Libyan government and protect itself from any threats. Ideally, this would be a NATO mission, given NATO’s role in freeing Libya from Qaddafi. It could also be a US mission if NATO lacks the will to get involved.

The European Union plans to send trainers this summer to support border security efforts. The United States should focus on training effective police and army for the central government. The objective should be to establish a prestige force soundly under the government’s control. Wages and equipment should be better than in existing brigades. Only individuals – not whole groups –  should be accepted into this force.

One often hears that Libyans will not tolerate the presence of foreign forces in their homeland. In Tripoli, I found otherwise. While Libyans are proud and do harbor suspicions about the intentions of outsiders in their country, their primary concern is that the Iraq experience not be repeated.

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