President Biden’s cabinet recognizes the Libyan domestic issue as a Mediterranean security issue. It can help the new Libyan government and show its commitment to revitalize alliances.
On February 25, Prime Minister candidate Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba has twenty-one days to be approved. He presented the new national unity government to the Libyan House of Representatives.
Although he has not yet identified his ministers, he promised they would be qualified technocrats representing Libya’s three regions and different societies. The deadline is based on the transition roadmap prepared by the Libyan Forum for Political Dialogue (LPDF), the organization that narrowly appoints Dabaiba and elects it as chairman of the Presidential Council.
In any case, the new government is only scheduled to rule the country until elections are held in December. Therefore, its authority and priorities will be inherently limited. Therefore, it will be necessary to remain in office, to maintain the fragile truce. This will need substantial international support to ensure minimum intervention from external actors. Despite its tendency to avoid complex conflicts in the Middle East, the Biden administration must play a key role in this effort.
Despite the early focus of the Biden team on Iran and Yemen, Libya remains a US secondary priority. Still, if President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken reunite with the allies who find themselves on the rival side, the country could become a model arena to show “America’s return”.
The first question that management has to address is how important Libya is!
To put the country on a crowded global agenda, it is necessary to turn its conflict from another Middle Eastern struggle into an urgent, multilateral Mediterranean security issue.
US partners are involved in the conflict, proxies (Turkey and the United Arab Emirates) has already fought through the field or in Libya (Egypt and Turkey) have threatened direct action against each other. Adding Russia’s dangerous mercenary presence, the humanitarian and migrant crisis, and a historically disconnected European approach, the current situation can be seen: a potential boiling point in NATO’s southern flank.
In this sense, Libya is a key test case for its commitment to rebuild the transatlantic alliance and revitalize American diplomacy, as President Biden stressed in his early foreign policy speeches. Yet, according to readings from Minister Blinken’s meetings with European foreign ministers, Libya came up only once (with Italy), while President Biden never raised the issue in his talks with heads of state.
This dynamic has to change. If the United States and Europe are to develop a common approach to Libya as an example of what a revitalized transatlantic alliance can achieve, their leaders must agree to combine their messages to Libyan actors and external actors such as Russia and the UAE. and Egypt.
The essence of this unified message should be to encourage Libya’s new government to develop a focused agenda based on better service, increasing security and preparing for the elections agreed on 24 December.
Each country should meet monthly with both Libyans and newly appointed UN envoy Jan Kubis to assess progress, identify barriers and propose solutions. Whether this group originated from the January 2020 Berlin conference or any other mechanism, regular attendance is essential to prevent Libyan officials from backing out of their electoral program and to ensure proper follow-up.
Senior officials in Washington also need to first communicate their expectations of all actors responsible for intensifying the civil war. First, to support the new Libyan government to suspend military aid to both sides of the conflict UAE, Egypt and Turkey and management representatives should be encouraged to comply with the ceasefire.
President Biden has not yet sought his Emirati, Egyptian or Turkish counterparts, so this message is best known as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, as the foreign ministries of these countries have no primary influence on Libyan policy.
Russia’s presence is even more compelling, given Moscow’s veto power over the Security Council and its refusal to even accept its deployment. The US African Command for Africa (AFRICOM) has unquestionably demonstrated that the deployment of Kremlin-backed Wagner Group forces in central Libya last summer posed a threat not only to Libya, but also to NATO. Therefore, the United States should continue to highlight Russia’s activities in Libya and encourage NATO to view Moscow’s local deployments as a danger to the alliance.
Situations where BIDEN can help
Besides more coherent diplomatic action, Biden management should provide assistance in three key areas: continuing the process of improving financial merger and service delivery; Contributing to the UN-sponsored ceasefire monitoring mission; and providing technical assistance for the planned elections.
Financial unity and public services.
Since last year’s Berlin conference, the US has co-chaired the committee that supports the reconciliation efforts of the Tripoli-based Government of National Consensus (GNA) with the eastern-based rival bank established by the current Tobruk. government. (When the new union government takes office, both governments will dissolve).
In December, the Central Bank of Libya agreed to absorb the substantial debt accrued by its eastern counterpart and devalue the dinar to better regulate the currency, drive it away from the black market and ultimately increase liquidity. In addition to continuing with this work, Washington should help the new government identify areas where rapid technical support would be most beneficial, such as electricity supply or healthcare during the COVID-19 outbreak. In the long term, the United States should coordinate with Brussels on how to best coordinate assistance planned by the European Commission.
As part of the October ceasefire agreement, the Joint Military Commission, representing officers from the GNA and the east-based Libyan National Army, agreed to deploy a limited number of international civilian observers and a Libyan-led monitoring mechanism.
The UN Security Council has tasked the secretary-general to provide options for the mission, and a UN advanced team is expected to make recommendations to the region to make recommendations. Washington should offer to assist in achieving the mission, including evacuation facilities if necessary.
Most importantly, the ceasefire zone should provide images of deployment and violations, AFRICOM reported with Wagner Group last summer. disclosure of arms embargo violations in the UAE, Turkey, if it did not heed the warnings for the cessation of such activities; the threat of sanctions under existing authorities; and Operation Irini, which assesses how AFRICOM can contribute to Europe’s embargo enforcement mechanism.
As part of its democracy assistance to Libya, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has a $ 10 million program to support the Supreme National Election Commission and some NGOs, as in previous elections. However, while these technical consultants are indispensable, they fall short of ensuring that the elections proceed on time. Washington should assume a diplomatic coordination role for this voting cycle, as it did in 2012.
Together with the highly effective UN Election Assistance Division, it should regularly bring together all relevant stakeholders to ensure that electoral tasks, from ballot box production to security, continue. By setting these diplomatic, security and technical priorities, the Biden administration could play a more effective role in advancing Libyan stability, benefiting from European alliances and protecting Mediterranean security.