* Western allies have no clear military options
* Training for Libyan security forces still in planning
* Libyans still seek to negotiate, albeit with guns
By Myra MacDonald
LONDON, Oct 10 With Libya sliding into anarchy -
its prime minister was briefly kidnapped by militiamen on
Thursday - Western countries are repeating their commitment to
help the North African country complete its transition to
democracy after its 2011 revolution.
But they have few good options to back up those promises
beyond hoping the Libyan people themselves can eventually agree
on a system of governance to reduce fighting between the
country's many ethnic, tribal and regional factions.
Without an authoritative government, Western allies have no
clear partner for the central plank of their strategy to
stabilise Libya - training Libyan security forces to guard key
installations, cities and the country's desert borders with
Egypt to the east and Algeria to the west.
The risk is that they could encourage new militias or
bolster the one part of the state that controlled those security
forces at the expense of others, potentially undermining the
messy democratic transition even further.
France and Britain, prime movers behind the Western
intervention to support the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, were
quick to pledge support for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan after his
capture on Thursday.
But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the
defence alliance was still considering how to meet an earlier
request by Zeidan for help in training security forces.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, he said there
were "some considerations as to how the security situation will
impact on any possible NATO assistance", but did not elaborate.
Britain's Ministry of Defence said training would begin once
planning had been finalised and Libya had selected recruits. "We
anticipate that this will be early next year," a spokesman said.
A U.S. defence official said talks were still in the
planning phase with no final decisions made. The intent would be
to provide military training outside Libya, rather than to send
large numbers of trainers to work inside the country.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States
would "continue to work closely with the Libyan government as it
continues to build its capacity to deliver security and good
governance to the people of Libya" but stopped short of making
any specific promises of fresh assistance.
SHARING OUT POWER AND OIL
Libya has so far been unable to agree on a new constitution
to distribute political representation among its competing
regions and cities and rival tribes and ethnic groups and,
crucially, to share out the country's oil and gas resources.
Zeidan also faces a possible vote of no confidence and
Libya's transition assembly, the General National Congress, is
crippled by divisions between the secular National Forces
Alliance and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The authority of the central government has been
particularly challenged in the east, where protesters saying
they are protecting Libya's oil from corrupt elites have closed
ports and threatened to sell oil for their Cyrenaica region.
But Zeidan's kidnapping from a luxury hotel in the capital
Tripoli highlighted the extent to which splits within Libya
cannot be divided into neat groups, for example by region or
tribe, but run through the city and even the government.
The gunmen who kidnapped Zeidan - who said they were angered
by the weekend capture by U.S. special forces of an al Qaeda
suspect in Tripoli - were themselves associated with the
fragmented Libyan security apparatus.
Libyans, meanwhile, have not only to agree a democratic
process but to build a state - Gaddafi worked hard to ensure
there was no real state to challenge him, keeping Libya
off-balance and fractured after seizing power in a 1969 coup.
At the same time, al Qaeda and its allies are taking
advantage of the chaos to buy weapons, win recruits and send men
to Syria to join al Qaeda-aligned rebels against President
Basher al Ass, Western and regional security sources say.
Libyan weapons have been smuggled into Egypt, helped
Islamist fighters overrun parts of Mali before a French-led
military operation earlier this year and were used in an attack
on an Algerian desert gas plant, the sources say.
The prime minister's kidnap showed how bad things had got.
"No one has been paying attention to how fragmented Libya
is, how bad the militia situation has become," a former U.S.
national security official said. "Now it's become obvious."
NO MILITARY SOLUTION
Yet for all the concern, western allies have few military
options, especially at a time when Washington is curbing
spending and President Barack Obama has tried to keep the United
States out of new wars after more than a decade of conflict in
Afghanistan and Iraq.
U.S. military officials said earlier this week the United
States would move about 200 Marines to a U.S. base at
Single-lane, Italy, from one in Spain to respond to any crises
after its raid in Libya.
The Marines are part of a special force created after last
year's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in which
ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
But U.S. defence officials made clear its remit was to
respond to limited crises that threaten U.S. government
officials and citizens in the Mediterranean region, including
The potential for drone strikes likewise remains very
limited. Used in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan
and in Yemen to target Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda,
they are not designed to restore stability in a complex civil
conflict like the one in Libya.
The United States operates unarmed surveillance drones in
the region from a base in Niger to the south of Libya but as yet
there seems to be no move to introduce armed drones.
Without a military solution, officials acknowledge the best
hope for the West is to let Libyans continue the tortuous
process of establishing a democracy, to offer technical
expertise where possible to build state capacity, and to use
intelligence to contain the threat from al Qaeda.
Geoff Porter, from North Africa Risk Consulting, said the
situation in Libya was "not completely catastrophic" given that
Libyans were still seeking to negotiate among themselves, albeit
often at the end of a gun.
They had little appetite for a new dictatorship and the
prime minister's eventual release, he noted, fitted a pattern
for resolving grievances. "The goal is not confrontation," he
said. "The goal was to negotiate."