Friends Today, Foes Tomorrow

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan vowed today to take a hard line on militias and other armed groups, urging them to leave their headquarters and join the country’s fledgling security forces.

He failed, however, to explain publicly why ministries continue to fund these militias or why in Tripoli and Benghazi the government is continuing to rely on them to help fight crime. See my recent Daily Beast article here.

On Sunday, the chief of the defense staff, Yousef Mangoush, faces a grilling from Libyan lawmakers. Let’s hope they ask him why operational funds have been diverted from the security forces to the militias.

 

 

 

 

Ansar Al-Sharia Is Back

My latest piece in Newsweek/Daily Beast explores how  Libya has tapped local militias including the one blamed for the attack on the U.S. consulate—to patrol Tripoli and Benghazi amidst a spiraling crime wave.

“Libya’s leaders have given the go-ahead for revolutionary militias, including the powerful Islamist Nawasi brigade and Ansar al-Sharia—the militia blamed for the assault last September on the U.S. consulate—to combat drug dealers and a crime wave that is disrupting daily life in the capital and in the eastern city of Benghazi.” Read the full article here.

Visit Tripoli See Fireworks…Including RPGs

Hard not to chuckle at the ill-timing of a Daily Telegraph travel piece that extolled the virtues of Libya as a destination for tourism. The article was posted online on the night of Nov 4/5 and opened: “Tripoli, Libya’s capital, is known for its walled medina and relaxing old-world ambience, and is home to a number of grand mosques, statues and fountains.”

It is home also to several unruly militias. As the article was posted a couple of rival state-sanctioned militias started skirmishing — it lasted  for more than 12 hours — in Tripoli, firing rocket-propelled grenades at each other, leaving nearly a dozen wounded and adding to ordinary Libyans’ sense of powerlessness.

The puff piece was part of a PR effort encouraged by the Libyan government to entice tourists to the North African country. A few months ago USA Today ran a similarly premature travel article urging tourists to visit the country.

Question: Do travel editors pay any attention to what is actually happening in a country?