Obama Administration: West Likely to Train Libya Militia Recruits

Monday, 02 Dec 2013 08:54 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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In an effort to bring a measure of stability to Libya, the Obama administration is moving forward with plans to establish a new military force whose members will likely include recruits from existing militias.
U.S. officials said it would be fairly easy to find and exclude recruits from organizations like Ansar al-Sharia, the jihadist group which carried out the September 11, 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, the Washington Post reported.

The United States, Britain, and Italy plan to eventually train as many as 8,000 troops. The United States plans to train 4,000 of the recruits at a training range in Bulgaria, with Britain and Italy training 2,000 each in their territory.Washington hopes the new force will develop into the core of a new Libyan army.
Islamist militia leaders complain that given Western bias against them and Libya’s continuing anarchy, more secular factions associated with the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was overthrown two years ago, are most likely to benefit from the establishment of a new army, according to the Post.

“Most of the guys who will get this training are from the Gadhafi regime,” said Moheidin al-Mejberi, a Benghazi militia leader whose militia is among those responsible for security in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Officials said they will use U.S. intelligence to stop keep out applicants with links to al-Qaida. They mentioned Mejberi’s group, the Supreme Revolutionary Operations Room, as well as an Islamist militia that had protected the U.S. mission in Benghazi as examples of groups that might not be approved for military training. 

But “just because someone is in a militia doesn’t mean they can’t participate,” a U.S. defense official said.

Western officials said Washington is looking for commanders and militia members who could become loyal to Libya’s central government.

Concern about militias’ role in Libya has mounted in the wake of a mid-November incident in which militias opened fire on unarmed protesters in Tripoli, triggering clashes that killed 43 and wounding at least 460, according to Human Rights Watch.

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