Remember Libya?

Libya continues to teeter on the brink of chaos.


Post-civil war matters remain unsettled in Libya, to say the least. Although things are quieter in Tripoli than they were in the immediate aftermath of Qaddafi’s ouster, militias remain a problem:

Two years after the end of the 2011 uprising, the new Libya is still in the making and still suffers from instability and violence. The past few weeks have seen continued violence in various places, including Tripoli. On 8 June, clashes between protesters and militia in Benghazi left at least 30 people dead, leading to the resignation of Libya’s army chief of staff, Yousef Mangoush. Militias continue to operate while the central government seems unable to stop them.

The situation in Benghazi is particularly perilous:

Gunmen staged overnight attacks on at least six security buildings and outposts throughout Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, killing five soldiers, military officials said Saturday.

The brazen assaults, which included snipers, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives thrown onto rooftops, comes after a number of smaller targeted attacks and assassinations of security officials in the city over the past several months.

Spokesman for the army’s chief of staff Ali el-Sheikhy said no group has claimed responsibility for attacks. Officials have also not announced any arrests.

An elite military unit known as Saaqa claimed on its Facebook page that Islamic extremists were responsible. It gave no further details.

Security officials say 11 people have been wounded. The figure includes assailants, as well.

Tensions have been boiling in Benghazi over militias, particularly after clashes a week ago killed 31 people, mostly demonstrators, during anti-militia protests. The military has since taken over several militia bases in the city, which was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.

The government, such as it is, retains only the most tenuous control over Libya’s major cities. The situation outside the major cities is even worse:

The long-neglected region, with borders stretching more than 2,000 kms and home to major oil fields, has grown more lawless as the country’s new rulers – hundreds of miles away in Tripoli – struggle to impose order on a country awash with weapons.

The south has seen rising violence, weapons and drug trafficking and an influx of illegal immigrants, leading the national assembly to declare the region a military zone, a decree the weak government has little power to enforce.

“The south is dying and the government is ignoring us. Crime is rampant, there are tribal animosities, smuggling and we are worried that what is happening in Mali will spread here,” said a local government official, who declined to be identified.

“We are free of Gaddafi but we are prisoners to chaos.”

The country struggles to keep oil production up:

TRIPOLI — Libya is struggling to keep its oil output stable, let alone increase it, as protests cut crude exports in the sector that supplies 95 percent of state revenue.

In the past year, disgruntled Libyans have protested at oilfields and export ports, clouding initial optimism over a speedy return to output levels of nearly 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) following the 2011 war that ousted Moammar Gaddafi.

The state National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on its website output had slumped to less than one million bpd following “irresponsible acts by some individuals” who shut down two export terminals and a major oilfield.

“The industry is suffering and this cannot go on as it is,” a senior Libyan oil industry source said. “These kind of problems keep recurring and this is hurting the whole of Libya.”

Oil, which accounts for most of Libya’s foreign exchange, is of vital importance to the fledgling regime. Although production has rebounded from the depths it sounded after Qaddafi’s overthrow, it remains below the production level that was maintained from 2005 through 2011.

How things will turn out in Libya is anybody’s guess. The most that can be said is that citing Libya as a victory is premature.

FILED UNDER: Africa, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    The country is effectively stateless, a Somolia on the Med.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t recall anyone using the term, “Victory,” though I suspect someone must have. It’s an inappropriate term. We toppled a thug who, among other things, ordered the blowing up of an airliner and the murder of the men, women and children aboard it. We did this without the loss of a soldier or a plane, at minimal expense. We lost four diplomats.

    So, if we’re asking questions about claims of victory, shall we also examine the predictions of those who claimed we’d inevitably have to put boots on the ground? Or the people who just parroted the word, “Quagmire?”

    This was a minor event, about like the many long-forgotten instances of British Naval forces in the days of empire knocking off some tribal potentate who misbehaved. We left the Libyan people with the means (oil) to make their way in the world. If they fail, then it’s their failure, just as their unwillingness or inability to deal with Gaddafi was their failure.

  3. Rob in CT says:

    Remember Libya? Sure do. It was a country in which we had very little (or no) interest, but some of our allies did/do and wanted us to help them take sides in a civil war. We did this, resulting in the overthrow of the government and its replacement by a messy coalition that appears to be ineffective (so far) at governing the country. I was anti-intervention at the time, and haven’t changed my mind.

    What would have happened absent our intervention? Qaddafi probably wins, right? I was ok with that, since I didn’t think he was our problem, even with the fears of a massacre in Benghazi. That said, him winning wasn’t necessarily a better outcome, for us or the people of Libya.

    Definitely, describing Libya as a success story is silly. Describing it as a disaster is likewise premature. We’ll see. Maybe they’ll muddle through. Maybe they will collapse totally into Somalia on the Med, as Ben says.

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We lost four diplomats.

    Well, two diplomats and two security personnel.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Somalia isn’t floating on oil. Libya is. My guess is they’ll find a way to achieve enough stability to allow oil to flow.

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And if they won’t, someone will find a way for them….

  7. stonetools says:

    From the first link, reason for hope:

    However, despite the violence, a large majority of the young generation is still striving to build the country they have always dreamed of with their own hands. We, the youth, are still here working toward this goal.

    Now two years on, thousands of Libyan civil society organisations have sprung up, operating like busy beehives in various cities with many volunteers thanks to the energy and determination of youth.

    The former military regime wiped out civil society organisations in Libya, leading many to doubt whether Libyans even had the capacity to develop a culture of civic involvement. But young Libyans, both men and women, have proved to the world that they are indeed capable of building peace, that they can fulfil the demands for social justice and that they can make a better life for themselves and their communities.

    When parts of the country were undergoing an armed struggle between supporters of the old regime and different militias in September 2011, Libyan youth were quick to organise. Their initiatives focused mainly on relief efforts to assist those affected by the armed struggle by delivering supplies and food. Initiatives were also focused on rejecting violence and on the need for dialogue to solve problems. For example, a group of young Libyans established the National Reconciliation Initiative to promote reconciliation between followers of the former regime and the rest of the population. Committees were formed in September 2011 the aimed to resolve the conflict in the town of Bani Waleed without the use of arms. Although their efforts were not as successful as hoped because some local councils were not cooperating as expected with campaigns, the committees were a step in the right direction.

    And while the media focused on the violence happening on the ground, youth were tackling issues they couldn’t in the past, like health, education and the environment.

    Sounds like its not all doom and gloom. Libya was never going to be Switzerland on the Mediterranean two years after a violent revolution. Its going to take years before we know for sure that Libya will make it. Apparently, the young are going to try.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Fun game: Substitute “Gang” for “Militia” and “Chicago” for “Libya.” Aside from the death toll being so much higher in Chicago. . .

  9. 11B40 says:


    Certainly I remember Libya. That’s the leading from behind ice cream sundae with the four Benghazt cherries on top. But, what difference, at this point, does it make ???

    Anyone interested in a couple of thousand Mohamar Qaddaffi “Miss Me Yet” posters ???

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Libya Grimaldi? Libya Bennett? Libya Joyner? Of whom do you speak?

  11. Jenos Idanian says:

    Libya? Oh, yeah. That rogue terrorist-sponsoring state with WMD ambitions that Bush rehabilitated into a semi-responsible member of the community of nations and no longer a threat to other nations… and all without a single shot being fired.

    What happened to that Libya, anyway?

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Oh, that Libya was the one preparing for mass slaughter of civilians. Are we crediting Mr. Bush with that, too?

  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    @michael reynolds: That depends, Michael. You got a reference and a timeframe for that one?

    Bush made a tacit deal with Libya: they stop being a huge pain in the ass and rat out some of the terrorists they sponsored, we forgive them and don’t pull a Saddam on Kadaffy. He held up his end of the deal, even turning over his entire WMD program (which was far more advanced than anyone suspected), then turned around and double-crossed him when it was convenient (and Obama needed to show he has some balls after all). Guess we don’t need to be trusted to keep any more deals we make in the future, huh?

  14. aFloridian says:

    “We are free of Gaddafi but we are prisoners to chaos.”

    This seems to be the repeating narrative of the (now-discarded term) “Arab Spring,” particularly when we Americans stuck our noses in it again.

    Remind me again why we supported/support the removal of Gaddafi, Mubarak, Hussein, and now Assad? Ok, they’re mass murders and dictators, but three of those I mentioned, at least, were relatively secular. None of them were threats to actual American lives (maybe American oil interests).

    So instead, we have spent American money sending our American missiles or small arms or actual troops (depending on the country) in to topple these regimes so….we could hand over power to murderous Islamists who are just as oppressive as their predecessors.

    Libya is in chaos. Iraq continues to suffer from internecine sectarian terrorism. Morsi has done almost nothing for the people of Egypt while continuing Mubarak’s authoritarianism, just now with a Muslim Brotherhood twist. And by helping the Syrian rebels, we shouldn’t pretend we are doing anything noble. We know next to nothing about these “activists” and rebels, except they are also guilty of atrocities and, should they be victorious, we should prepare for the ethnic cleansing of Alawites, Druze, and anyone else not Sunni enough.