U.S. to Help Create an Elite Libyan Force to Combat Islamic Extremists
U.S. to Help Create an Elite Libyan Force to Combat Islamic Extremists by NYT CounterTerrorism coorespondant Eric Schmitt
The Obama administration quietly won Congress’s approval last month to shift about $8 million from Pentagon operations and counterterrorism aid budgeted for Pakistan to begin building an elite Libyan force over the next year that could ultimately number about 500 troops. American Special Operations forces could conduct much of the training, as they have with counterterrorism forces in Pakistan and Yemen, American officials said.
The effort to establish the new unit was already under way before the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya. But the plan has taken on new urgency as the new government in Tripoli tries to assert control over the country’s militant factions.
Libyan commentators have expressed hope that a Western power would help train the country’s fledgling national army, so the proposal might be well received. But it still faces many challenges, including how to get the powerful militias to buy into it while taming their influence, and vetting a force to weed out Islamic extremists.
“Over all, it’s a sound strategy, but my concern is that in the vetting they make sure this doesn’t become a Trojan horse for the militias to come in,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who visited Libya recently and wrote a paper last month on security in the country, “The Struggle for Security in Eastern Libya.”