Talking to Whom? Pack on Negotiations and US Airstrike in Ajdabiyya
As a seemingly never-ending deadlock continues to mar Libya, the need for a review of the US and EU approach to the Libyan crisis is desperately needed. In my latest op-ed for the New York Times, written in collaboration with Brian Klaas, I argue that not only western stakeholders should adopt a more engaging and pressing stance towards Libyan blocs in general and the Tobruk establishment in particular, but they should also start to engage more directly with militias and actual military stakeholders, rather than just with institutions with limited political significance and representativity.
To end these charades and bring peace, Western policy in Libya must change radically. If this round of negotiations fails to lead to a successful national unity government, then neither Tobruk nor Tripoli should enjoy international legitimacy or recognition. The mandate from the flawed election that gave the Tobruk faction an edge is set to expire in October; after that, Tobruk should not be put on a diplomatic pedestal.
International recognition is a precious commodity that, when revoked, can catalyze sparring groups to find common ground. Giving one preferential treatment to the detriment of the other will damage Libyan politics for decades to come. By withholding international recognition, cutting access to the international banking system and applying a raft of multilateral sanctions against disruptive actors — on all sides — the West could begin to remove roadblocks to peace.
But ultimately, Europe and America will have to engage directly with the militias, especially the powerful Misratan bloc, which can actually contain jihadists and the flow of migrants. If they do not, Libya will remain paralyzed by political stalemate, drenched in the blood spilled by ISIS and haunted by the ghosts of helpless migrants drowning on Europe’s doorstep.
You can read the full article here, on the New York Times website. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the US airstrike on a militant base located a few kilometers south of Ajdabiyya on Sunday 14 June, I contributed to a piece on ‘Voice of America’ by analysing the timing and implications of the US airstrike, which reportedly target Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
“Now is a good time to have conducted this,” assessed Jason Pack, president of Libya Analysis. “Belmokhtar was tactically important, and capitalized on the country’s political disintegration to firm up militant training, arms smuggling, and fighter recruitment,” said Pack. Also known as Mr. Marlboro for heading a cigarette-smuggling operation, Belmokhtar was a “key thread in Libya’s position in the global jihadi infrastructure,” Pack said.
For that reason, the analyst expects the groups associated with him may launch a retaliatory attack in North Africa in the coming weeks. The airstrikes are the largest show of U.S. force in Libya since the 2014 capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, wanted by Washington in connection with the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
You can access the full article here, on the Voice of America website.