Since the end of the 2011 war, several hundred people have been killed in clashes between militias. Terrorist and guerilla-type attacks have become common. Insecurity and violence were at first confined to the southern and the eastern provinces, but have now spread to the capital itself, where powerful militias now face off against one another.
The government does not control its own forces. The group that apparently kidnapped Zeidan in theory reported to the Ministry of Interior, but in reality answers only to itself. The elected government has been forced to conduct business under constant threat of violence from armed revolutionaries who mill around outside the General National Congress and occasionally storm the building or hold political leaders at gunpoint.
If steps are not taken to get control of security, there is little hope for Libya’s future. Qaddafi’s fateful warning that Libya would become a “Somalia on the Mediterranean” without him could come true. The investment that NATO and its partners made in toppling Qaddafi would then be almost entirely wasted.
The uproar at the news of the US operation that captured Al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi in Libya earlier this week underscored the difficulties Libyan leaders face in balancing anxieties about their sovereignty with a desperate need for more help from the international community. These anxieties have made it very difficult for the government to ask for assistance – particularly on security. This hampers the cooperation Libya so badly needs to claw its way back toward peace and stability.
These anxieties will persist and worsen in the aftermath of this week’s events. Nevertheless, more extensive international efforts to help get Libya back on course must begin immediately.