Libya trains reg­u­lar army to ‘do away with mili­tias’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Un­der a blaz­ing sun at a mil­i­tary cen­ter in western Libya, dozens of young re­cruits learn to march in for­ma­tion, as author­i­ties train the coun­try’s first reg­u­lar force since its 2011 rev­o­lu­tion. An­other makeshift camp has been set up nearby to train fu­ture sol­diers. On the menu: jump­ing, climb­ing, crawl­ing and scal­ing ropes. “This ba­sic train­ing marks our pas­sage from civil­ian life to mil­i­tary life,” said Is­sam Abu Gh­n­ima, a mem­ber of the first class of a soon-to-be-formed Pres­i­den­tial Guard.

The 28-year-old, who has two wives, says he lost two chil­dren dur­ing the NATO-backed up­ris­ing that ousted long­time dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gaddafi in 2011. He de­cided to join the Pres­i­den­tial Guard “to get rid of the mili­tias that have de­stroyed this coun­try”. “We want to move on to a new stage: build­ing the state. I think the Pres­i­den­tial Guard is a very good project for start­ing to build in­sti­tu­tions,” he said.

Suc­ces­sive tran­si­tional author­i­ties over the past six years have been un­able to form a reg­u­lar army or po­lice force, or even to re-es­tab­lish se­cu­rity in a coun­try con­trolled by hun­dreds of mili­tias. The chal­lenge was un­der­lined again this week as forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed gov­ern­ment re­pelled an at­tack by ri­val mili­tias east of Tripoli af­ter three days of clashes.

In the past few months, the Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord has been work­ing hard to form the new force, which will be tasked with pro­tect­ing gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and diplo­matic mis­sions. “The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity wants to help us, but in the pres­ence of the mili­tias, it has not found in­sti­tu­tions it can rely on,” Guard’s spokesman Colonel Ad­nan AlTurki said. He was talk­ing in front of 200 sol­diers gath­ered at a hall in the train­ing cen­ter in Ghar­ian, 85 km south of Tripoli. To mo­ti­vate them, he promised “good wages and bonuses”, as well as train­ing abroad.

‘In­still ABC of mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline’

The Pres­i­den­tial Guard, set to form the core of the fu­ture Libyan army and po­lice, is to even­tu­ally com­prise seven bri­gades. Colonel Salah Al-Triki said the first con­tin­gent of 600 sol­diers and of­fi­cers are be­ing trained at cen­ters in Ghar­ian, Tripoli and the western city of Mis­rata. Af­ter three months of ba­sic train­ing, they choose a spe­cial­ity ac­cord­ing to their skills: Spe­cial forces, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, the me­chan­ics’ bri­gade and so on.

The Guard al­ready has 500 op­er­a­tional fight­ers, re­cruited from armed groups, whose task is to pro­tect Tripoli’s in­ter­na­tional air­port, said Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Shtiba. The GNA re­cently ousted ri­val mili­tias to re­gain con­trol of the air­port, which was de­stroyed by fight­ing in 2014.

“We are now try­ing to in­te­grate the fight­ers in­di­vid­u­ally in just three months of train­ing, essen­tially to in­still the ABC of mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline,” Shtiba said. “Most of them have com­pleted their mil­i­tary ser­vice and are well sea­soned in com­bat.” Since 2011, tran­si­tional author­i­ties have tried re­peat­edly to in­te­grate the mili­tias into reg­u­lar forces con­trolled by the state.

Thou­sands of fight­ers have been trained both in­side Libya and abroad. But many mili­ti­a­men switch al­le­giance depend­ing on the in­ter­est of the day, of­ten end­ing up re­join­ing armed groups formed on the ba­sis of re­gional, tribal or re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tions. “We will not make the same mis­takes,” Shtiba said, with­out go­ing into specifics. —AFP

GHARYAN, Libya: Libyan re­cruits take part in mil­i­tary train­ing at a cen­ter some 80 km south of the cap­i­tal Tripoli on July 11, 2017. — AFP

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