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In Libya, a patchwork of militias keeping the peace, and straining it

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That makes strengthening national security forces a top priority for the new government, which has yet to be formed since national elections in July. On Thursday, a proposed cabinet lineup by Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abu Shagur was rejected by the national assembly after a few hundred protesters from western towns with strong militias of their own flooded the parliament building, complaining the proposed government wasn't regionally inclusive.

Mr. Shagur has promised to propose a new cabinet by Sunday. Whether one will be approved then remains an open question. And until there's a government, building effective national security institutions is unlikely. The ICG warned that until then, the "reliance on revolutionary brigades and local armed forces will continue to be an uncertain wager.”

Militia men

The key is breaking down existing militia structures, says Fawzi Waniss, head of the Benghazi section of the Supreme Security Council (SSC), an auxiliary police force of militia fighters working under the interior ministry.

The SCC and LSF have brought most militias under at least nominal government control, says Mr. Waniss. Others are more loosely aligned with the state, while still others remain independent. “In Tripoli, they allowed whole brigades to enter the SSC,” says Mr. Waniss. “That was a mistake.”

In August the loyalty of some of those brigades was questioned after SSC fighters in Tripoli stood by while hardliners from Islam's Salafy sect destroyed mosques which contained Sufi shrines and graves. Adherents of the Salafy school, which is predominant in Saudi Arabia, consider venerating saints apostasy. 

Waniss has roughly 18,000 men under his command. He says they were recruited as individuals, rather than en masses as members of existing militias. But in other places, some of the auxiliary cops were recruited before a vetting system was in place, casting doubt on their loyalties. 

Meanwhile, Waniss also faces a lack of money.

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