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Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy – CRS

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy. Christopher M. Blanchard, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, May 19, 2014.

“More than three years after the start of the 2011 anti-Qadhafi uprising in Libya and more than 18months after the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities and personnel in Benghazi, Libya’s security situation is dire and the direction of its political transition remains in question. The State Department describes Libya as a “terrorist safe haven,” and Obama Administration officials have recently stated in testimony before Congress that armed Islamist extremist groups are gaining strength in areas of eastern and southwestern Libya and exploiting unsecured weapons flows and weak border controls. These networks appear to be linked to terrorism in the region, and support  foreign fighter and weapons flows to Syria.  U.S. efforts to empower Libyan security forces  remain challenged by the strength of armed non-state groups and discord among the country’s  interim leaders. These factors have delayed the completion of the post-Qadhafi transition.  Prior to the outbreak of conflict in mid-May2014, on March 11, 2014, the elected General National Congress (GNC) ousted interim Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in a vote of no confidence, just days after Zeidan returned from a security-focused policy conference with U.S. and other third-country officials in Rome. Zeidan, who was briefly abducted by militiamen in October 2013, had previously survived numerous attempted no confidence votes and had long faced criticism at home and abroad for what some observers viewed as weak leadership. Zeidan has rejected criticism of his tenure and denied corruption allegations, arguing instead that Libya lies “between the hands of militia groups,” and warning that the “proliferation of weapons and  religious extremism are becoming mutually stronger.”  After just weeks in his interim position, acting Prime Minister Abdullah al Thinni offered his  resignation and declined to appoint a new cabinet in the wake of Zeidan’s departure, citing threats  to his life and his family by armed groups; his doubts about the GNC’s ability to promptly  confirm new nominees; and what he reportedly sees as a lack of sufficient decision-making  authority granted by the GNC to executive offices. Al Thinni had served as Defense Minister under Zeidan, and militiamen had previously kidnapped his son, releasing him in January 2014.”

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