tv Middle East Institute Hosts Discussion on ISIS in Libya CSPAN May 23, 2016 11:21am-12:52pm EDT
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advantage. the president will be speaking at hiroshima. the president will return to washington d.c. on saturday. >> now look at the challenges of combatting isis in libya. the talk is hosted by the middle east institute. this is an hour and a half. >> well, good afternoon, everybody. i'm kate sele, senior vice president of the institute. it gives me great pleasure to lead panel in combatting isis in
libya. it's very gratifying for having such a large audience today, given how beautiful it is. thanks for your interest. we have seen intense diplomatic and media attention focused on the issue of combatting al qaeda and isis in libya, how they have imagined to take control of gadhafi's hometown and discuss the policy options and efforts to defeat isis and al qaeda affiliates in this country. on our panel today, we're very fortunate to have with us a diverse group of individuals, who are all working hard on this issue. it's a great honor to be joined by the senior libyan representative in washington, and i also want to recognize the u.s. government official on the panel today, jonathan weiner, for joining us to share his
thought. his colleague had to be called away into a meeting. so many thanks to our all-star panel for joining us today and for having a conversation which i'm sure will be wide ranging and highly informative. many thanks to our moderator. he's going to be introducing the panelist and running the conversation afterwards. david mack is an mei scholar and former vice president of the middle east institute. he's a frequent commentator on north african and gulf affairs. during his diplomatic career, he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for near east affairs and before that was u.n. ambassador to the united arab emirates and has worked in libya and tunisia.
david, i would like to hand the panel over to you. thank you very much. >> well, there are so many things we can talk about regarding libya, but this particular program is going to focus on what the so-called islamic state is up to in libya. and although it has wrongfully appropriated the word islamic and does not perform most functions of a state, i'm going to refer to it by the arab acronym daesh. and there are other people who may call it isil or isis, i won't contradict the president of the united states who insists on calling it isil but daesh works for me and that's what i will call it. now paul lister is an expert on
daesh and in general on terrorist phenomenon represented by groups like al qaeda and daesh and other substate armed groups that practice terrorism without coverage in the u.s. media. he understands complexities and he brings a strong grasp on the theory and practice of terrorism, as illustrated by his recent book on syria. there are full biographies, i believe, in the sheet that you received. he brings that particular perspective to this panel and the other panelists have other perspectives which will be useful in forming a composite view of the problem. fred wary has wide expertise in political military affairs. he knows libya well having served as defense attache to the defense minister in libya.
he understands the complexities of libyan armed groups and the foreign military establishments that might be involved at some point in interacting with the libyan government. watha has shown herself to be an articulate voice for both the libyan government of national accord and for the libyan people more broadly. she's a fervent libyan patriot. she was involved in libyan civil society efforts against the form gadhafi regime. she responded to her country's call by holding -- by accepting the senior positions by the minister of education and foreign airfarffairs prior to h assignment.
>> and our next guest was a key member of kerry's staff when john kerry was the member of the senate foreign relations committee, he performed a number of jobs that might be called thankless because they were really touchy issues but he showed himself able to apply the very broad principles of u.s. foreign policy to print specific circumstances in countries that are important to u.s. national interests. his current assignment as special envoy for libya has been something he's been doing for two and a half years. and it has made him very aware of the interests libya's arab, african and european nations in that country, as well as the various cross currents in the libya body politic.
that's the order for that i will ask our speaker to address issues for about eight minutes and then i will ask questions and have a little interchange among the members of the panel before we open it up to members of the audience. so we'll start with charles lister. >> thank you very much for that kind introduction. seeing as we only have roughly eight minutes, i'm going to fly straight into my discussion points. >> i'm not a libya expert per se. i'm going to aim to present more of a big picture look at how isis is operating in libya, how it has got there and what it represents as of today. since isis's declaration of a supposed or self-declared
caliphate in june of 2004, isis has sought to become a transnational or international movement and libya has become arguably its most important sort of secondary area of operations outside of syria and iraq and it it has done so by exploiting libya's sort of fundamental instability and failures. it has done so by exploiting the political failure, the political vacuum and social divisions that have emerged out of libya since -- or over the last several years. this is a model of exploiting an existing division that isis used to its own advantage in syria and iraq over the last several years. in a sense isis aims to enter into areas where there are already extensive and intense divisions within existing power players and existing social
structures. if you look at how isis entered into syria, it's the exactly same model that is entered into syria in two 14 and exploited in mosul in 2012, 2013 and 2014. it knew all of the tribal leaders. it knew all of their dirty histories. it knew how certain tribes were against other tribes. it knew how certain militias had a certain history maybe 20, 30 years prior, which it could use to its advantage to play off another actor. this learning the lay of the land is something that isis has been very well practiced in in syria and iraq and arguably was the key to its entrance and is essentially a de facto capital in libya today. estimates in terms of its manpower vary but arguably it
represents between 3,000 to 6,000 fighters. some estimates suggest as much as 70% of its manpower in libya is made up of non-libyan fighters. tunisians have turned out to be a significant recruitment tool for isil in libya as tunisians have become extremely significant for icer foreign fighter recruitment in syria and iraq. the same has taken place with regards to senior commanders who have been fighting in syria and iraq. they have in the last 12 months somehow at least half a dozen been deployed to libya to bolster isil's senior command structures in libya. so clearly libya is of strategic importance to isil's long-term
objectives, particularly considering the organization is coming under pressure in syria and iraq. 3,000 to 6,000 fighters. isil controls territory. it has the capacity to reach over to the tunisian border and as was demonstrated in march this year across the border into tunisia, as well as into the capital tripoli and as fast east as benghazi. isil was previously led by a previous leader who came from iraq to bolster isil's leadership in libya. isil has demonstrated a capacity for very fast growth. i think back in november, the estimate back then was 1.5 to
2,000 fighters were in isil's ranks in libya. the high end suggest as much as 6,000 but i suggest it's probably 3 or 4. but that's at least a doubling of manpower under its command in the last six to seven months. it operates multiple training camps across the country, including training camps for children. those are known as caliphate cubs camps. seert is its de facto capital, exploiting preexisting social divisions, tribal divisions, political divisions, militia divisions to its own advantage. seert in particular and i'm sure my esteemed actual libya expert panelist will be able to talk about this in more detail than
i, sooert was gadhafi's hometown. it was also a town that was essentially under the control of militias prior to isil's entry into the town. isil used the fact that there were individuals that other militia's accused of being loyal to gadhafi's former cause and it's many of those individuals that fight under isil's ranks. can you use a similar analogy, though it's more complicated to suggestion that isis has influenced ba'athist ranks. i'll fast forward. i've already had a time warning over a little bit of the detail in terms of governance in seert,
which suffice to say is extremely harsh. as soon as isil took over seert, im it imposed what it called a city charter. it basically lays out a full law and order approach as to how civilians are expected to behave in seert as a whole. women are subject to as many as seven behavioral and dress code regulations. men have similar regulations with regard to the length of their trousers. there are three prisons, basically established three central prisons depending on the magnitude of your alleged time. a behavioral police was established which patrols the streets on a day-to-day basis. internet is restricted to only
internet cafes run by isis. there is little evidence to suggest that isis is making significant levels of money from oil but it is taxing citizens at significant levels. they control through fear populations under its influence. for that reason and i'll briefly tournament to the counterisil efforts or discussions with regard to libya, i would actually advocate in this current phase not rushing. i think there is a significant impetus within political discussions these days to rapidly bring the fight to libya through local forces but also with the deployment of special forces from the u.s., france,
the u.k. and various other countries. isis will exploit this unless the first vat of fighters are -- i would advocate a let them rot strategy in the meantime. in a sense accept the fact that people aren't necessarily happy under isil control there. i'm sure there are areas where people are willing to be under isil control in the meantime considering the broader state of chaos. over time resentment will continue to grow, it's certainly we've seen in syria, something we've seen in iraq. time should be spent now, as i'm sure as my fellow speakers will talk about, better uniting the political structure in libya after the december 2015 agreement. and most importantly perhaps of all, uniting the two, west and
east armed structures respectively under the current government that was agreed in december 2015 and under the command of general hifta in benghazi in the east. unless those two forces unite, i can say with pretty significant certainty isil will exploit those two divisions or certainly it will try to and it will devote significant resources to doing so. in terms of the influx of weaponry, there is currently a u.n. embargo. it hasn't done an awful lot of good. various state actors have been sending in weaponry -- stop. various outside state actors have been sending in weaponry to libya throughout that arms embargo. secretary kerry supposed last week in vienna about finding a way out of that embargo in order to send weapons to vetted
acquired armed forces on the ground. again, i would urge caution until there is a unified armed structure, until the forces have been sufficiently vetted, sufficiently trained and sufficiently linked up with external, u.s., french, british, special operations forces. as a syrian expert, i can say we've learned many lessons from 2011 and 2012 from syria that should be learned in a place like libya today. i'm sure there's plenty more we can discuss in the q & a but hopefully i've made some sense while rushing through my notes. >> thank you, charles. i'm advised that -- [ applause ] >> that we need to make -- we need 30 seconds to make some technical adjustments up here. and among other things, we'll get the mic level up to where it will be a little bit better for people in the back of the room.
>> well, thank you so much and thanks to the middle east institute for the invitation and would you, what an introduction. more than an introduction. hopefully i'll find something new to say but probably just underscore a lot of the points that were made and sort of illustrate them from some recent trips that i made to libya in the west this year and then last year in the east. i think when we look at the islamic state, we have to sort of understoand this fusion. there's long legacy of jihadism
that the islamic state builds on and we're seeing a generational institution and this these intense debates about the nature of the state, the caliphate, the acceptance of governance, these are all being played out over the last two or three years and the islamic state i think represents the ascendancy of one particular strain but that's not to say there are other strains of jihadism still pushing back against it. again are these generations of jihadism, you probably know them, the post-2001, 2002, 2003 generation and the post-2011 generation, a younger generation that was radicalized partly by the syria war, by going to participate in the party of jihad. there are historic notes for jihadism in libya that have been tapped into and i would argue also that when it arrived in
libya, it found an infrastructure already in place that had already been set up so much of the islamic state's from time to time has been the flipping or co-opting of that infrastructure in various places. so what were the cat lists? the syrian war was huge. some wanted to just volunteer and fight, some jihadists but not with the islamic state. with the ascendancy of the islamic state in syria, some defected to the islamic group. others came back and defected later on. it was this nucleus of libya fighters that implanted the organization, announcing in the fall of 2014. at the same time you had the weakening of al qaeda groups. and this is really my next point
for the catalyst was the political division of libya into the dignity dawn camp that was absolutely fundamental for giving the space for the islamic state to insert itself. these factions were so busy fighting each other, they were using the islamic state of demon oozing their supporters and meanwhile the islamic state is growing. in tandem, you had the islamic state investing in libya, through -- technical advisers, shariah courts, many of these are foreign. the islamic state made an effort to redirect foreign fighters, don't come to syria and iraq, come to libya. and many of these fighters are the most hardened, the most vicious fighters. when i was in benghazi with the
libyan army forces there, they said to me that the snipers, the suicide bombers were all foreign they were facing, tunisians mostly. i think when we look at the countering the islamic state, we have to really understand the case-by-case basis, that the islamic states roots are different. that requires a tailor made approach to each of these different areas and especially seert. derna obviously, i think its reputation is well known but, again, the key thing there is that it ran up against this barrier of an older generation of al qaeda that pushed it it out, also a tribal element. so the very factionalism that allows the islamic state to insert itself into libya is also an buffer. in benghazi, the islamic state
inserted itself into an islamist militia insurgency, it flipped many of the shariah and shield members, they defected over to the islamic the social fabric of key benghazi neighborhoods that were under assault by operation dignity, and it was bolstered by foreigners coming in from abroad, by boat. the strong hold, where the original sha ria infrastructure proved so critical. and played a role in co-opting tribes. in flipping of the pro-gadhafi tribes on the oust, if a faced discrimination and that's what the islamic state has played upon. i don't want to say entire tribes have flipped. you can't say gadhafi have come over to isis.
some refugees told me they had this thing, better the hell of the islamic state. we would rather tacitly support this it draconian group than be subjugated by this town nearby that treated us so poorly after the revolution. moving south to tripoli and capitalizing on the exclusion and marginalization. in srebreica there's smuggling networks, families that have had a long time in smuggling. what's their strategy right now? i would argue it's one of consolidation. to consolidate their hold and to
disrupt the formation of a new state. we saw this in attacks on police training. to peel away the leader, what are the tribe, the disgruntled youth we can peel away? now the key challenges, i guess i have one minute. the question of partnership. who does the west ally with? there's no central chain of command, military chain of command. and the great risk the u.s. and others face is identifying local partners. the risk of working with militias against the islamic state could further fracture the country, reduce the incentives for reconciliation. counterterrorism and the enormous challenge of rebuilding the police and the army. i think the fight against the islamic state should be a platform to do that.
ats i see it, there are three options for going after the islamic state. there's western direct action plus airpower. no involvement by locals. this is untenable. we know this from experience. there has to be a local element. the second option is the west plus local enablers or allies meaning militias and the second, this is obviously fraught with risks in terms of what comes next. what kind of governance replaces this? and the third option is the most desirable but the one with the longest time horizon and that is the west supporting a libyan-led government of national accord effort through a national effort that tackles this menace and i'll leave it to the next speakers to discuss those things. thanks. [ applause ] well, that's very tikly in production for you, wafa. a very timely introduction for you. get as close to that mike as you
can. that's good. >> since the time is too short i may need to read through a little bit. special thanks to the middle east institute for hosting this important discussion. >> we can't hear you. >> okay. special thanks to the middle east institute for hosting this panel discussion on a very important topic to my country and to the region. libya is at a dangerous turning point and i'm going to, after we heard the analysis of daesh from the experts, i'm going to be talk iing on a different aspect. i'm going to talk about what we think is a different perspective on defeating isis and libya, sustainable defeat. libya today is in deep economic crisis with severe cash shortage and in a desperate need of
humanitarian aid and threatened by islamic state. the chaos of libya threatens the region and neighboring countries. the chaos originally is the result of domestic complicated political and economical dynamics that resulted in divisions and confrontations between different groups across the country. military intervention or military technical assistance alone will not be enough to defeat isis. libyans will defeat terrorism only through domestic drivers of instability. the u.s., the international community, should focus on helping libya on pillars of stabilization such as the economy, reconciliation between groups and powers. the most effective response to the rights of isis and libya is
the construction of an accountable libyan state with an effective security sector. without an accountable libyan state, the war against daesh or other extremist groups will be endless in libya. this is not to say nothing can be done against isis and libya in the short term. quite the opposite. the anti-isis fight could strengthen the political process and vice versa. for instance, efforts by the presidential council to create a military joint command to fight isis can both help the situation and strengthen the political process. moreover new libyan government should be supported to resist threats by militias and help the central bank and government push back against the demands and put constraints on salaries.
militias should be dismantled and reintegrated on individual basis either in civil or military sectors. it's also essential for the government of national accord to reconcile with the forces dominant in eastern libya. the international community should help in devising a proposal for reconciliation. the army's role in defeating terrorist groups in the east and acknowledging the sacrifices in the east is paramount to reconciliation. >> the u.s. should support through different policy aspects we see. in terms of priorities, the economic crisis should come first. as failure to resolve the crisis will further ex as prat. increased organized crime
activities and promote the growth of isis. second, political reconciliation is crucial to make libya's institutions work, third, the u.s. and the international partners should act on regional drivers of chaos. it will help address the two most pressing concerns in libya, namely security and counterterrorism on the one hand and illegal immigrants on the other. the idea is given libya's chaos and insecurity the response of the international community should not be to put security first and focus on supporting government to control its borders. this strategy has failed before and i was witness to that for political affairs and responsible for many of the security initiatives offered by
many countries around. and since libya's security is the result of complex interaction between complicated political, economic and military factors. in conclusion, the u.s. and the interna international community should not see purely through the lens of counter terrible richl and approach focused on building capacity, equipment, arming, et cetera, even though they are important but in order to achieve tangible results, sustainable results, the partner state should help the new government step up re reconciliation and help develop functioning institutions so it can observe the support offered by the international community. so it can observe the training, so it can observe whatever is offered by the international community. to grapple with these problems
very high level of political, diplomatic effort is more important now than ever. thank you. [ applause ] hi. i'm jonathan winer of the united states special envoy for libya. first of all, there's been an enormous amount of wisdom already expressed. generally speaking, i agree with pretty much everything, not every word but close to it of what's been discussed so far. we ought not to be too abstract what we're facing. in the last 72 hours we saw forces fighting daesh to try to regain critical territory. they grabbed back some critical
territory at key pathway that is lead to tripoli and lead to the south, lead it to the east and return daesh, equipped a big bus with a vehicle and killed what's been reported as three dozen libyan soldiers. there's probably more and there were some 100 people seriously injured they're now trying to keep alive. this battle between libyans and daesh, now we differentiate them because libyans believe in a country. daesh believes in itself. it offers a fantasy vision of gold, glory, gods and guns which can be attractive to immature men in their teens and 20s but offer nothing to anyone else in the long run. so this battle is being fought right now.
i had written down prior to wafa saying a word that chaos is the enemy. daesh is an enemy and a big enemy. but chaos is the enemy and she kept using that word because daesh feeds on chaos. so if you want to get -- to defeat daesh in libya, you have to address the factors as wafa did in her presentation that have fed chaos in libya. that's what policy has to be based on at its core. our broad strategic interest in libya is to support a unified libya, not one that gets divided up into parts with an accountable government, not people self-proclaiming i control the resources. you have to talk to me if you want anything, because it's me, because i do. that was the way gadhafi ruled on behalf of the people for 42 years. it didn't work then and it doesn't work with what would be many gadhafis who want to control particular portions of
the country and don't care about the whole. the u.s. strategy to counter daesh is rooted in the discord of the country has allowed groups to proliferate and not just daesh. you have two different sharia groups and you have some other groups. it's a great opportunity for bad guys to make mischief and for foreigners to come in. luckily libyans don't tend to like foreigners to tell them what to do of any kind whether it's americans or brits or french or people from iraq and syria. they develop antibodies right quick to foreigners telling them what to do. that's one of the reasons i'm betting on libya and libyans, whatever is temporary our strengths may be. our approach is tied very closely to our efforts to support the government of national accord.
we think libyans must be able and need a stable government to close the political security vacuum that is a precondition to combatting daesh and other bad guy groups. so is it security first or economy first? it's hard to get people to invest when security is a disaster. if washington, d.c., had no internationals present, we would be a much poorer place. our economy would be in absolute shambles and we're the united states, a big, global superpower. everyone who has left libya has been bad for libya. you have to get enough security back in to get participants. now one of the key things i learned in talking to people about libya, what reforms can be put in place with a management
and eliminating corruption and so on and so forth? that would make the difference. they said there isn't anything you could do if libya isn't pumping oil. it's not quite 100 but it's pretty close. they're pumping, what, 150,000 barrels a day, three minutes. we're not going to be able to get through all four sections. we're in section one. so one-tenth. oil is one-fourth what it used to be. doesn't work. we're going to eat up all libya's seed corn and then you have real chaos. the current problems and the security conditions are intimate ly interlinked. we'll continue air strikes. we've had two so far against
terrorists. if you have one, you can have two. we've done training and equipping of libyans in the past or offered it. done a little of it. we're going to offer more. we have a communique, an agreement. 22 countries including every country in the region, all of libya's neighbors, all of libya's mediterranean neighbors. all agreeing on the same things. integrated government of national accord, exemption from the arms embargo to let it take on terrorists. which we support and will probably participate in if the libyans ask us. and moving ahead to try to build national structures. there's liquidity prices. some of that's hoarding. and we need to get through it.
we have to give libyans hope through governance. we have to get the next generations of libyans playing a profoundly significant role because they have fewer of the bad habits people developed under gadhafi. i see hope in connection with incoming generations who have fresh ideas and who, like people everywhere, believe in their own country and want a place they can live in. so u.s. policy is founded on the premise of one government, not multiple governments. compromise, sharing. one political process. regional states, anyone who has had clients and proxies alying on behalf of the unified government rather than fighting ideological or regional or
sectarian battles and resources being shared on a national level. whether you're east, west, south, you have a stake in the government. those are pretty core principles. if you stick with those principles, you may be able to make progress which we are start ing to see as the gna begins to take hold. thank you. [ applause ] okay. my thanks to all of our panelists and are you hearing me well in the back there? okay. i'm going to go through the -- i'm going to ask a question of each one of our speakers roughly in the order that they came up here and then i may ask them to question one another about some points.
let me start with charles list er. charles, your description doesn't make it look like a fun place for a libyan to be living but i wonder is it a place where daesh can feel safe? it's not raqqah. it's not mosul. it's very close to the seaborne air assets of nato countries. there are these libyan factions described quite well by fred that threaten daesh in one way or another. do they really see this as a place they can build a caliphate long term? >> the honest answer is i'm not convinced but it's the best bet
they have for now, the best opportunity they had from late 2014 into 2015 and to acquire a solid territorial foothold. with links further on the coast and the south. as i said throughout my presentation, i'm not enough of a libya expert. i think for sure in terms of recruitment there is indications they're acquiring foreign fighters not just through tunisia but also from more in the african continent. i think cert will be their bastion. i have little doubt there will be a fight and they appear to be being led by commanders who have come from syria and iraq will
seek to be within tribes, rival militias so as to prolong their control of the surrounding areas for as long as possible. then, of course, what happens after that we have to wait and see. i don't think it's coincidence they have demonstrated its capacity to spill over into tunisia. i don't think it's a coincident we've seen them slow down or reduce mass executions they've carried out. a report said they've documented, i think, 49 executions. it's quite a low number for isis, believe it or not. and i don't think it's a coincidence we've seen that relatively low number. as you seg they probably are aware of the problems they have coming into the future. if they feel under pressure we will see more killings, more
attacks. the oil industry further south, more mass executions. but i don't think we're there yet. we are in the city building effort not necessarily a caliphate. we've seen it replicated elsewhere in egypt, syria, iraq and elsewhere. >> fred, let me ask you to pick up on that. how successful do you think daesh can be in building the structures there it has in turkey and in syria? after all, there's got to be a lot of competition from other factions and this new government of national accord and i just question how much in the way of financial reserves daesh could bring to bear in trying to
attract libyans and other fighters. i realize there's a big reservoir of potential fighters elsewhere in africa, tunisia and so on but what are the practical constraints on daesh and how is it -- how would it be possible for the combination of the libyan government of national accord and international partners to compete with them? >> well, there's a lot there. you know, i think you've -- sorry, you've answered it. they're not able to really replicate the sort of state building functions that they have elsewhere because they lack, you know, revenue streams. they're not able to tap into disenchantment, you know, there are these isolated pockets. they've been pushed out of
derna. as i mentioned this sort of atomization of libya that has allowed them to come in is a buffer in the accepts they run up against rival militias and towns wherever they go. it's the lack of will and capacity of these factions that have allowed them to grow, so they're still capable of great disruption. they can plot attacks abroad. they are, as jonathan mentioned, the attack was a preemptive -- i think they saw something coming -- and it was quite violent and a lot of people lost their lives. the question about what can the gna do, this goes to the question of inclusive government as the antidote. the security solution will only get you so far. something has to come after isis. it has to be inclusive.
there has to be rule of law. we don't just want to substitute one extremist threat for another. so, again, i think it's krcritil that we proceed cautiously and methodical methodically. >> well, that said, fred, if things continue to stagnate in terms of re-establish iing stability in libya and if as the weather improves in the mediterranean we have another wave of people coming across the mediterranean toward europe, desperate refugees, with all the potential for terrorists coming along with them, which countries would be most krcritical to
western military efforts to bolster the libyan government in dealing with these security problems? which countries feel most threatened and which are likely to come forward with some kind of military assets if things deteriorated to that extent? >> you've sort of answer ed it. the european countries that are affected, they have announced their willingness. the italians have been, i think, crucial to this. they've somewhat backed off from participating in a stabilization force, but i do believe they've committed to training. the british and the french reportedly have forces already on the ground and i think they would be critical to lending expertise now. i think there's a huge will among the you're peeuropean pow coordinating those efforts. the soft fight, the soft interactions are not working at
cross purposes and then just making sure that countries that have certain capabilities to contribute like the italians have a very strong sort of constabulary police commission which is what libya needs. the u.s. has certain capabilities. we need to learn the past training failures where we did the training before there was anything to beabsorb. what do they come back to? they become militias and make sure you train and you're not just training one particular town or tribe. >> surely you're not suggesting that we just dump some military equipment in there on this armed forces of the new unified libyan government and expect them to be
able to use it without significant training measures. >> did i say that or what? >> no. but that's my question, how much training will be required for the forces loyal to the new government for them to be a southern military presence? >> how long does it take to create a military from a fractured country? when you train a counterterrorism force, again, it goes to the question it's not simply a technical capacity. you can train them to certain technical standards but you have to have, you know, political unity. it's a long horizon. i think we're looking at a very long time. we have this immediate isis threat but, again, we need to look at the long game in terms of how to rebuild the military. it will take a long time. >> okay. let me follow up on that with you, wafa.
the governments that were represented in vienna have indicate d support for lifting the arms embargo on sales of military equipment to the government. assuming that gets through the u.n. security council, and it will take a u.n. security council vote. i don't know what russia might do at this stage but assuming there is a u.n. security council resolution, is your government also going to request specific assistance in terms of training forces and where? would it be on libyan territory, tunisia or egypt? i don't understand how you form
up the armed forces for the new libyan government starting from where you are now. >> okay. thanks. it's not an easy question. let me go back to something done by a couple of countries, among them the u.s. and three european countries where they had prop e proposed to train some libyan soldiers after the g8 summit in 2013. they made a proposal to -- it was the general purpose, the idea was to create a nucleus of national army, the eidea was to train them abroad. we failed big time because the vetting was inappropriate. the young people were taken to
different countries and there was one critical thing where you have different schools of military. how can you train by six, seven schools? the vetting failed and the reason was we did not have a proper strong institution for vetting. institutions to the existing weak, fragile ministry. right now let me tell you, we have a lot of military professionals all over the country -- south, west and east. the military institution existed during a different time just like any other fragile institution. we had military capacity, as you
know, during the revolution when the camps were open. the country had a huge, massive amount of arms. those officials, those military ranks are available. they are there. the idea is to gather them. i think this is what's starting to happen. i know the government of national accord is already working with these people. the same in the east, the libyan national army composes of these people regardless. sometimes, yes, they had recruited civilians and, yes, the war was tough and, yes, it's street fight not traditional military fight. you have to realize that fighting terrorism is not a traditional classic military confrontation or something. very complicated and devastating because it should depend on intelligence, on special forces,
special operations and not by the means of heavy artilleries. we do have the nucleus of the army in libya. we have young soldiers in many different towns in the west. gadhafi had trained many and now we are in a period where these people are technocra it ts. they should come back and they're already there and building on that. we should build on it. we should build their compaapac further and with lifting the arms embargo we have to be very careful here. we need to assess what we have already. we need to make sure that it's in the right hands, it's falling in the right hands. we need to solve the problem of the militias, and i spoke about that earlier that the government has to be supported to resist
the pressures and their desire to continue. i mean, we don't want to go back in a circumstanle of militias. i wish this would be in one of our u.n. security resolutions at that it's the duty of the government of national accord and international community to support us on that. they should be given incentives. and only at that point we can see a proper army being formed and assessing what we have and what is needed and the national accord will be prepared once there is a reconciliation between the armed groups across the country, prepared to make
its proper requests. >> wow. thank you for that, wafa. i want to apologize for jumping over the very, i think, well-considered order in which you presented the issues that this government has to face. you said it in your prepared remarks of course that security couldn't come first. you had to start with getting the economy going, having political reconciliation and you specified reconciliation of the government of national accord with the libyan national army in the east. i want to recognize that you have a kind of a well thought out approach to that and i didn't mean to distort your vuts by getting you on to the military preparedness and rebuilding the military topic, but you did that extremely well, thank you. jonathan, i want to come to you last here. noting that some of the things we indicated, the u.s.
government indicated what seems to me to have been a successful meeting in vienna, we were going to be prepared to be quite forthcoming in support of a wide range of support for the libyan government national accord, in effect, saying that if they would form themselves up as a partner, we would be there to partner with them. i really wonder to what degree this will have the necessary level of support from the congress of the united states which hasn't shown itself to be notably enthusiastic for sometimes for all the things that need to be done, to what extent do we need to build more support within the united states
and particularly even though there were, as you noted, all the governments in the region signed on in vienna. in the past it's been my impression that we haven't had wholehearted support for the idea of the international community getting behind a single government and i wonder to what degree this issue needs to be higher on the agenda of our relations with egypt, for example, in terms of making certain that the international community carries out the kind of high-minded pledges that it made in vienna. >> thank you very much, ambassador mack. we were talking with egypt about libya all week this week, probably most of last week, and probably much of the week
before. you forget when you it continue to have conversation after conversation with one another. getting alignment among all of the regional players, all of the original players as well as the european neighbors has been at the core of our policy for the past several years. libya can't afford to get divided up by people with different interests fighting with one another. that's part of what leads to the chaos. if you have one regional state supporting one player and a different regional state supporting another player, that's not going to work well. i think everybody understands that. egypt, the united arab emirates, qatar, saudi arabia, sudan, chad, niger, morocco, i hope i've not missed any of the north
after rican players -- jordan - did miss one -- as well as the united kingdom, france, the european union, all signed on to this communique which is a full-throated endorsement to the government of national accord. it's like water hydraulics. i don't know if there are other kinds. you can't predict where an individual particle will go. if you dig a trench, most of the water will go down that trench. if you go down a channel and after you dipg the channel, you then coat the channel and start putting in filters and a variety of things to get the water looking good and useful for more purposes. what we're doing is trying to create a channel for national unity and reconciliation. and for building the
institutions libya needs for building enough stability so the economy can come back, distribute the wealth fairly, equitably to bring people in, and take advantage of libya's natural resources to rebuild the country. that's what we're trying to do. i think we've made a lot of progress. there are still a lot of problems. the more progress we make, the more libya will be able to take on daesh as the vast, vast, vast majority of libyans want to do. and push it -- reduce it and push it out. it's happening already. you see fighting against them from misrata, in benghazi. it's not like nothing is happening to push them back. they have less territory today than they did six months or a year ago and they'll have less territory again.
this is an iraqi/syria phenomenon that's being transplated into syria welcomed in by some extremist elements. some of whom then said we don't want them. they didn't like being told what to do and kicked them out. so the libyans are difficult. she's very sensible and dynamic and easy to work with. we love working with her. but libyans can be quite fractious. so carving that channel in a way that they're going to say this is good is what we're trying to do even if we can't predict where individual droplets are going to go. if -- and even though it's going to take time which it is and it will. thank you. >> thank you. i'm going to be willing to take some questions from the audience.
oh, yes. i'll be willing to take some questions from the audience. raise your hands. i've already seen a few of you with your hands up. i suspect there will be more questioners than i'm able to get to. when i call on somebody would you, number one, introduce yourself as to your name and affiliation. number two, ask a question, don't make a statement. keep it short. all right, let me start in the middle there, jason. and wait until you get the microphone, please. >> always a pleasure to hear such an all-star panel but particularly to take inen constructions from a good friend ambassador mack. i agree with the broad outlines of the panel. isis is no doubt a symptom of
the maladies of libya's implosion post-2011 and not the cause. and, of course, as charles started off saying and fred commented, without a bona fide anti-isis coalition it will be impossible to make real or sustainable gains in cert. those actors who support other factions such as the east or others who don't want to be a part of this anti-isis coalition, it's all well and good to sign communiques. what can be done to incentivize concretely? i think sanctions and pressure on other areas are crucial, so what are concrete proposals? i ask the panel, that can make people fall into line both
regional directors? >> jonathan, let me ask you to start by addressing that and then i'll ask other members of the panel to jump in if they have particular comments. >> well, to start with sanctions, sanctions, of course, are intended to respond to global and national security threats of various kinds and have to be legally justified. the speaker of the parliament of the government in libya we recognized prior to the gna. after he undertook a series of activities to prevent people from voting, which included substantial threats of violence and intimidation when a majority of ready to support the national accord not just the majority but a super majority, over 100 out of 150 roughly participating members who were ready to go and he prevented it from happening. we sanctioned him. we sanctioned khalifa who threatened essentially to
impreside imprison or inflict violence on anyone who participated in the government national accord's entry into tripoli. after the sanctions, he wound up leaving town. he lost protection, he lost financial resources. the central banked all of its authority and ceased responding to requests from either of the legacy governments. so that was a very profound economic shift which i'm sure had its impact. there was an effort to sell oil elicitly lly and it was suppory the house of representatives but not responding to the government's national accord. we got a designation by the u.n. to declare the oil seizable.
they called the ship's captain up and told them to turn the ship around. the oil was unloaded and was no longer susceptible to diversion. we were very grateful to the indian government to help on something well outside the area of south asia. the full five fully cooperated with one another. participated in the vienna communique. very important. to have all five onboard and it to have all five feel they're pulling together. we worked very, very hard to try and consult with russia and china as we go along. complaints about how all of this
came to be. it's worth noting they have them and that alignment there is tremendously important, too. after that, what happened next? did they say they were going to continue to move oil out because they had every right to? they sure did. and then a possibility the participants might get sanctioned as well, not just the oil but the individuals. i don't know whether that had an impact on them or not. i do know there was a deal cut between the eastern and western knock. if they agree to the authority, the national accord says they're a part of it, then they are. a mixture of sanctions and we don't want to sanction anybody. if they're not coming together
you have to kcarve that channel. you have to get people into the right territory and then to back off whenever you can. >> let's get a microphone to the gentlemen on the right. >> from johns hopkins. jonathan, you just answered part of my question which is to what degree does the gna control things at present. the central bank, to what degree on unifying the parliaments. where are we in this process? to what degree is there a connection between the gna and the local government that still exists?
>> should i just go? >> yes. >> it's a work in progress, of course. the central bank that controls all of the foreign exchange, all of it, has been based in tripoli, exists under at this point the authority of the gna and undertakes no activities that aren't in alignment with the policies and approach of the gna. the central banks have some independence but it's still aligned. the role of the one to the east is still hard to assess. i was very disturbed when i read in "the wall street journal" they were intending to hire a safe cracker to break into a safe in benghazi and take out gadhafi gold coins withi his image on them and melt them. i thought that was disturbing.
only criminals broke into central bank safes and that only happened in movies. here it was being discussed by somebody who purports to be a central bank governor. very disturbing. reports of large amounts of currency being printed, to be imported into libya. i don't know whether those are true or not. very disturbing. where we support and back the gna and most of the money is tied up still anyway which is a good thing in light of libya's instability. it's a work in progress. it's a channel being carved, as it were. the government's ability to directly control things is quite limit ed but most towns and cities in the united states don't take their direction from vice president biden. very few of us take guidance from the top officers of our country.
the system kind of works. who is exercising thurt and jurisdiction and where. it's a work in progress and very hard to say. if people agree to accept the authority, that authority is accepted. the process is as much a state of mind as anything else. what has to happen over the next few weeks is the government of the national court works with the central bank to secure liquidity to get currency on the ground and purchasing power through things like letters of credit to get goods imported so there's enough stuff through ramadan so people feel, yeah, our needs are being taken care of properly. this is what i believe wafa bugaighis was referring to before. that's what they have to do and they're working on it. i hear there will be real
progress over the next couple of weeks and other people are tearing their hair out. are they focused on it, yes? is it as critical as wafa bugaighis says? it's essential. >> it's been a great discussion by a couple of our speakers about sanctions which i appreciate. i'm going to ask to get one more question out at least from the gentleman there. go ahead. >> thank you for the presentation. i'm eric goldstein from human rights watch. of course isis is awful but since 2011 various militia have probably been responsible for far more abuses. if there is -- those who are talking about a selective listing of the arms embargo assure us that there will be vetting, i'd like to hear from any member of the panel who can explain how the vetting will be credible, who's going to do it,
who has the intelligence to ensure that the arms don't go into the hands -- into the wrong hands, thank you. >> well, wafa bugaighis was involved in civil so ciety befoe and i think she's in a great position to answer this question. >> civil society -- i will answer it maybe with my capacity also, as i said, under secretary for foreign affairs before this post. this is what i mentioned earlier. we should not rush and we have to be cautious and i reiterated that. the eidea of lifting the arms embargo and importing arms right now, we need to assess what we have.
we need to make sure that -- we have to make sure it's not going to fall in other hands and i think i heard this mentioned, we should not rush into such an issue, we need to organize and know who is going to take what, where is it going to go and previously we had a huge amount of arms, a lot of smuggling, organized crime, selling arms in this country. besides eisis we have huge organized crime network in the country and a huge amount of arms going in and out so we need to be cautious definitely. i think this is what's going to happen.
let me take one more question from the lady in the middle and then i'm going to ask all four members of the panel to leave us with a final thought in one or two sentences. >> i'm with rand. can you hear me now? my question is about coordination among international actors, sort of carrying on from what jason said about communique is nice but beyond that there needs to be some sort of concrete measures. from what it seems each actor or each country has its own plan in space.
what is the degree among those actors you see and are they communicating in terms of intelligence sharing, do they have individual relationships that are different with different militias on the ground and then from there do you trust the gna is actually a body that will provide the kind of factual information you're looking for in terms of which militias to trust and work with? >> let me start with fred in answering that question. >> i'll take the last part of that. factual information, this is the real problem, a lot are auditioning, raising their hands, i'll fight isis. they figured out it's a great way to get support and the sort of question about, well, what
does that really mean? is there a criteria for signing up, and that goes to the human rights vetting which is tremendously problematic. when they tried to train, the record keeping system in libya was quite sparse. you didn't know who was -- it's worrisome. some of the actors that are pushing back against the islamic state right now are running their own prisons. i went into one in tripoli where guys are being thrown in there, who's isis? who is not? how do you know he's isis? the question of due process is really, really an issue. the issue of special forces, i don't know. i've seen the reports about what the french did in benghazi and each actor has its own impulse
and its own agenda and i think it can be detrimental if it's not orchestrated. it creates a certain ripple effect that could be damaging. this has to be on the same sheet and we have to proceed with caution and that would be my closing point, let's be careful before we rush in. this is a so sighity probably more resilient than we think. people i talked to, they want their lifestyle issues addre addressed, they want their economy. that has to be the first step. >> that's a good way for you to end. first, do no harm. >> it's been said already that isis is not necessarily a libyan phenomenon. i think that's absolutely right. when i talk about syria, don't
forget about the other one which is al qaeda, and i think sharia has had a foothold for much longer than isis has. sevcentral leadership both in t region and further afield. i think last year there was a conference held between basically every single al qaeda-linked group in north africa and as far south as mali in benghazi and that was coordinated by ansar al sharia. i will say don't forget about the other jihadi enemy i would say has much more of a historical foothold in parts of libya. on train and equip, if i was someone to say there is a parall parallel, that is best known as the centcom one which spectacularly failed. that failed because there was a refusal to understand and
acknowledge the reality of local dynamics, of what people's priorities were. so if i was to draw a parallel to libya, i would say don't make any train and equip mission only about isis. isis. the whole broader long-term context of libya has to be taken into account. secondly by extension. the train and equip mission that has worked in syria or i would argue has worked by the central intelligence agency and coordinated with regional governments, that took 18 months to find the first genuinely reliable vetted forces. that still exists to this day. over 50 armed groups have received that vetting, training, equipping process since 2012, 2013. and two out of 53 on my count don't exist anymore. it's a remarkable success rate, but it does go to show you how long it takes to conduct a process like this and how important that process was in succeeding and actually
acknowledging the local dynamics. that was the primary reason for its success. so, again, to sort of reiterate, i think what i said and what others have said, it takes time. don't rush a process like this. if you rush it, it will fail. >> wafa, would you like to just leave us with a couple of final thoughts? >> yeah, just -- we recognize that the process of unifying the whole of libya and securing it is going to be a long process and the situation will probably still get worse before it gets better, but my message here is for the international community, for the u.s. government, we've got to shoot for the high diplomatic and political efforts so far and for the gentleman in particular who's been doing a lot of traveling and a lot of hard work ande