x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

It's time to prepare for Libya's future

No matter how long the stalemate in Libya, planning for a post-Qaddafi era is prudent. If properly managed the process may even hasten the colonel's demise.

Col Muammar Qaddafi may be preparing to flee Tripoli, as at least one US officials claimed at the weekend. Or, he may be digging in his heels for a prolonged stalemate. Either way, Libya's opposition is planning for the day Col Qaddafi exits. As well they should.

International diplomats, together with Libya's Transitional National Council, have begun drawing up a blueprint for the country when and if the Qaddafi era ends. His departure is by no means guaranteed; support for the Nato-led air campaign has wavered.

But planning for a post-Qaddafi era is prudent nonetheless. If plans are properly managed, they may even hasten the colonel's demise.

Some western nations have been tepid in their support of the TNC, largely out of an abundance of caution. While rebel leaders have called for billions to feed themselves and fend off Qaddafi's forces, donations to the effort have fallen short of stated needs. Concerns over what the TNC's long-term intentions are, and whether the rebels have the capacity to administer the funds, top the list of global concerns.

It is welcome news, then, that the world's superpowers are looking to shore up the same rebels whose capacity is unproven. This just might give them the momentum they need to survive Col Qaddafi's waiting game. As one British diplomat noted on Friday, past failures in Iraq are driving this planning effort. No one needs reminding how devastating the lack of post-war planning was for the Iraqi people.

In Libya, the TNC and their allies will face even greater challenges when the fighting stops. Libya does not possess the political and social structure that existed in pre-war Iraq. In centralising power to Tripoli, Col Qaddafi has left the country with few working state institutions.

Should Col Qaddafi be defeated, Libya is likely to pass through a period of instability. Indeed, the possibility of a divided Libya plunged into a prolonged civil war cannot be discounted. Plans that therefore cover the maintenance of law and order, oil production and the potential deployment of UN forces, among other issues, are desperately needed.

International support will be essential no matter what future Libya faces. Ensuring the rebels are up to the challenge of governing may be the best way to ensure foreign support doesn't waver further.