By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 2 November:
The United States and NATO were premature in withdrawing from Libya and suffered their own “mission accomplished” . . .[restrict]moment when the Qaddafi regime fell last year, Mahmoud Jibril has controversially claimed.
The National Forces Alliance chief said that the decision had risked opening up a power vacuum in Libya, which could be exploited by militant Islamists and other armed groups.
“After the collapse of the regime, the immediate task of our friends was to help us rebuild the government before they withdrew from Libya,” Jibril said on Wednesday, during a visit to the United States.
“The moment the regime fell down, they felt that their mission has been accomplished. I think it was a premature decision.”
Former US President George W. Bush famously delivered a televised speech in May 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq under a huge banner stating “Mission Accomplished”. US involvement in the conflict was to continue for another eight years.
Unlike in Iraq, however, there was no major ground operation by foreign forces in Libya, and nor was there the prospect of NATO continuing operations any longer than was needed to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which formed the legal basis for the intervention.
Contrary to Jibril’s comments, it is widely felt in Western capitals and elsewhere that a more enduring NATO presence in Libya could have helped fuel unrest and extremism, not prevent it.
Jibril, who served as the NTC’s interim prime minister during the revolution, argued that in order to reduce the problem of violence in Libya, it was now essential to open up a national dialogue that could include all social, political and religious groups.
His greatest fear was that these groups would refuse to negotiate, perhaps out of religious ideology or fear of marginalisation.
“What I’m afraid of is when those elements refuse to sit around one table and discuss the future of the country,” Jibril said.
“That’s a scary scenario. The alternative, unfortunately, is not a good one.” He suggested that the country had “about a year” to work out a national dialogue that included all of these factions.
Jibril is no stranger to controversy in his public statements. At the beginning of August he warned that “Libya could go the way of Iraq and Somalia if assassinations and bombings in Benghazi were to continue”.
The remarks followed a wave of targeted killings, many of them against former Qaddafi-era army officers, that had been taking place in the eastern city. [/restrict]