A few days back Libyan Interim leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil addressed the crowd for the first time in Tripoli, and US envoy Jeffrey Feltman also made his way to Tripoli. Following this was David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy who also met with the National Transitional Council (NTC) leader. Considering that the political battle in Libya is almost-over-but-not-yet-so-over, NATO and the Gaddafi opposition are understandably eager to locate Muanmar Gaddafi and his son Saif-al-Islam who are both wanted by the International Criminal Court. There are several conflicting reports on Gaddafi's hideout and according to latest reports Gaddafi is reportedly hiding in a desert! Saif-al-Islam's location is still not confirmed. Unrest continues in regions of Bani Walid and Sirte although residents have found it increasingly difficult to flee these tense regions.
NATO forces are expected to remain as long as Gaddafi and his sons are on the run. As of now it seems the NATO forces do not have long term plans for Libya, in terms of sending ground troops, in fact NATO could be significantly wary of prolonged stay in Libya and possibly hopes not to turn this to another Afghanistan. The situation in Libya, seems as of now fundamentally manageable and the African Union has also recognised the NTC, making things rather easy for the transitional government, but there could be many underlying issues and of course, challenges.
The Libyan geographic position in the Northern region of Africa and close to the Middle East is strategically suited for terrorist bases. The open unguarded weapons sites that belonged to Gaddafi military across Libya is another danger, the Human Rights Watch group has already reported large quantities of ammunition and more than 20000 missiles missing from these weapons sites. So where exactly are these weapons? Under these circumstances, Libya could become another Afghanistan and a breeding ground for terrorists. Despite Osama bin Laden's death, Al Qaeda still thrives and the unrest in the entire Arab world could strengthen their influence in the region. If the transition is not smooth enough there could be potentially significant chaos in Libya which could well become unmanageable.
Although the Arab spring has shown the need for change towards democracy across the Middle East, the terrorist groups continue to see the rebellion as positive. It is possible that networks such as the Al Qaeda see this new political landscape in the Arab countries as more favourable when compared with the controlled regimes of the Middle East dictators. From Hosni Mubarak to Muanmar Gaddafi, the changes in the Arab world have been quite drastic with major impact at many socio-political and economic levels and as in any period or landscape of change, all political and social groups including terrorists see significant opportunities.
Gaddafi is still on the run and NATO has been putting psychological pressure on him so that he finally surrenders. What is essential immediately, apart from locating Gaddafi and his son is developing a long term plan for restructuring Libya. Some of Libya's Gold Reserves have been stolen by Gaddafi loyalists and Libya's human rights record is not respectable, suggesting that the NTC and the future elected leaders of Libya will be inheriting quite a few challenges for a new Libya. They have to reshape the political and social structures and improve human rights conditions in Libya and instil a basic sense of security in the people. So, along with the case of missing Gaddafi and his son, missing missiles and weapons, missing gold, there are issues of human rights, law and order and seeking international support for the new government. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have visited Libya to put the final stamp of victory against Gaddafi and to declare the coming of an 'Arab summer' but what is needed right now is not just good weather but the right kind of navigation systems in the form of a road map. A definite political and social agenda for Libya and that would truly liberate the Libyan people. After the Iraq fiasco, Libya is definitely a ray of hope for international politics and paves the way for change in the Arab world. Would the world's attention remain on Libya and its reconstruction if Gaddafi loyalists continue to put up resistance even after the new government is formed? Or would world attention now shift to other countries, possibly Syria? The challenge is to sustain a plan for political and social stability in Libya to prevent any descent to chaos.
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