Opinion| Unifying the Libyan army

Hatem Sadek
6 Min Read

Whether we agree or disagree on the revolutions of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, we may agree on one decisive fact that emerged from the repercussions of the post-2011 years, which is that the survival of nations depends on the strength of their national armies, and we can demonstrate this by what is happening around us.

Iraq, which was occupied in 2003 for allegedly possessing weapons of mass destruction, did not fall until after the decision of American military governor Paul Bremer to dissolve the Iraqi army and demobilise its members and affiliates.

This was the catastrophe that destroyed Iraq indefinitely. All that is happening in the internal arena of political conflicts and clashes would have remained confined to the circle of political differences had the Iraqi army not been disbanded. This is because the army is the only entity that was able to maintain stability and political security with its capacity and strength, but now it is simply possible to turn the political table upside down once one of the components of the authority rejects any decision that does not fit with its orientations.

The same situation is being replicated in Yemen to a greater extent and in Syria to a lesser extent, given that it has kept the bulk of its army from falling into the cycle of ethnic conflicts.

In Libya, however, the situation is even bleaker. Libya is a country with a geographical area larger than that of ​​Egypt with a population that does not exceed 10 million people, according to the latest statistics. However, even though it had a sophisticated military arsenal, it did not possess the necessary human resources to manage that arsenal, and this was evident in the conflict that broke out between Libya and Chad on the disputed Ouzo border strip.

Talking about Libya is very important, not only because it has the longest border with Egypt, which spans more than 1,000 km, but also because it has always been a destination for a lot of Egyptian workers.

Therefore, what is going on there remains a priority for Egyptian political decision-makers, who insist that the solution in Libya begins with the exit of all foreign mercenaries and armed men and the provision of support to national institutions, especially the Libyan army — the only body that has the right to own arms to protect the homeland.

The unification of Libya’s military institutions according to sound national foundations, loyalty to the homeland, working under the elected civilian authority of the Libyan people without interfering in internal political affairs is a goal that all parties must contribute to. Moreover, international expertise should be brought in to achieve this endeavour and rehabilitate the members of these military institutions.

This is because the army is the only guarantor of the principle of national sovereignty and is capable of realising the hopes of these people for stability, development, and a decent life.

Last month, military leaders from western and eastern Libya discussed in a rare meeting in Tripoli naming one chief of staff to unify the country’s military institutions in a precedent that is the first of its kind since the country was divided 11 years ago.

The talks took place between a delegation headed by Lieutenant-General Abdel Razzaq Al-Nadori, Chief of Staff and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar from the east, and another headed by Lieutenant-General Mohammad Al-Haddad — Chief of Staff of the military forces in the west.

The necessity of the exit of mercenaries, foreign fighters, and foreign forces from the country was stressed, and the establishment of a unified force that was agreed upon in the cease-fire agreement between the two parties was also approved. Additionally, the two parties agreed to develop a plan to start conducting border patrols to protect the country’s borders, prevent illegal immigration and organised crime, and combat terrorism, according to a statement issued by the Libyan army.

The progress that has been made in the Libyan security track towards a unified military institution represents a good step on the right path. It may represent a gesture to end the division in Libya.

There is no problem with the presence of parties and differences, but there must be an agreement to uphold the country’s supreme interest and unify its military power, which is the only way for the country to survive.

* Hatem Sadek is a Professor at Helwan University

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