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Hearing of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Libya at a Crossroads: A Faltering Transition


Location: Washington, DC

"The Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa of 2011 brought with them a period of brief hope for the future of democracy in the region. Millions across many nations demanded changes to the way their countries were being run, in many cases run by dictators who held a stranglehold on power for decades, unrelenting and unyielding.

In some countries, the people managed to usher out the ruling party, and for a moment it appeared as though we were ready to see democracy rule the day. However, the lack of infrastructure, the lack democratic institutions in these countries, as well as the lack of political will have all but dashed those hopes, and Libya, unfortunately, is one of the prime examples of this.

Once Qaddafi was removed from power, those seeking to reform the government quickly proved that they were not up to the task, and the country fell into a further state of disunity as armed militias battled for supremacy and control over Libya's future.

Libya has been plagued by instability -- both political and economic -- and its factious nature has left it on the verge of a civil war that poses very real, serious, and imminent national security challenges for the United States. To make matters worse, the porous nature of its borders has allowed extremists to flock to Libya, adding an even greater complexity to the downward spiral and increasing the likelihood of an all out civil war.

Libya has become a terrorist safe haven and the worst case scenario for all who had that hoped the Arab Spring would bring democracy to the region. We are now witnessing this crisis in Iraq and we certainly cannot afford for both nations to become entrenched safe havens for extremists to destabilize the region and attack our allies and our national security interests.

With the prevalence of so many weapons readily available to all, foreign fighters are flocking to Libya by the droves and we are seeing Libyan weapons showing up in conflicts across the entire region. So what must the United States do to help Libya: avert a possible civil war; bring the political factions together to help resolve their differences; stabilize the security situation in the country, fight back the influx of extremists and shore up its borders; and secure U.S. national security interests.

The problem in Libya is that there are multiple crises going on at the same time, all with their own sets of issues, but all linked together and the fate of Libya resides in successfully navigating not one or some, but all of these issues.

Libya cannot secure its borders, nor can it repel the extremist invasion; it cannot take advantage of its oil revenues and reserves and it cannot stabilize or stimulate its economy; the political factions remain deeply divided and, as such, the state building process has stalled, the government has not been able to establish a means to protect its borders and confront the extremists, or make the much needed economic reforms.

Today the people of Libya are voting to choose members of a new parliament, we hope this is a new step forward onto the path to stability. But as long as the security situation remains tenuous, so too will the political transition stall and the economy falter -- it's a seemingly unending spiral that leads to only further deterioration unless something is done immediately.

The United States must remain engaged, rather than continue its hands off policy in Libya, we must find ways to work with the political parties to resolve their issues so that they can form a government that can deescalate tensions, end the fighting and finally get Libya back on the transition to democracy.

After all, it was the Administration that played a large role in the ouster of Qaddafi, but then left as quickly as we got there, leaving in our wake the mess for the Libyans to clean up themselves, knowing that they hadn't the organization or the ability to do so. What we are witnessing today is, in part, a consequence of that, and we now face an uphill battle that the Administration cannot sidestep or sit on the fence and hope things work in our favor; we must prevent Libya from turning into another Iraq, and we must avoid this from becoming yet another tragic strategic defeat in the Middle East and North Africa for U.S. foreign policy."

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