THE NATO-led bombing campaign against Muammar Gaddafi has destroyed half his military capacity, a British minister said yesterday as he gave details of a plan to stop Libya slipping into the same void as Iraq after the invasion.
Despite the erosion of the Libyan dictator’s defences, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell remained unwilling to predict when the increasingly costly conflict would end.
He pointed instead to the international arrest warrant issued this week against Gaddafi for alleged war crimes and the ongoing defection of regime-followers as a signal that “his time is limited”.
“The position for Colonel Gaddafi is getting more and more difficult every day,” Mr Mitchell said in London. “The military have now degraded about half his kit.”
An international effort has been mounted to support the emerging rebel leadership and the wider country once Gaddafi falls.
Mindful of the bloodshed that consumed Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, a small British-led team of security and development experts has drafted a report identifying areas that require attention.
One suggestion for immediately after Gaddafi’s ousting was to reach out to elements within the regime, such as the head of police in the capital, to reassure them that they still had a job and a role to play in the service of their country.
The decision to disband the Iraqi army after Saddam’s demise created tens of thousands of disaffected men with weapons and was a key factor in stoking the sectarian carnage that followed.
“The report has learned the lessons from Iraq about using the existing structures,” said Mr Mitchell. “One of the first things that should happen is someone gets on the phone to the former chief of police and tells him he has a job.”
The report, which is due to be presented at a key meeting next month of about 20 countries and international organisations involved in the Libya effort, sets out what might need to be done in the first 30 days after Gaddafi goes. It also explores medium-term needs until the UN is ready to step in and take the lead in helping Libya to rebuild.
The report is designed to help the rebel Transitional National Council move towards democratic elections and the creation of a new government.
UN officials, meanwhile, are preparing contingency plans for Gaddafi’s fall, including the proposed early deployment of 200 unarmed UN observers to oversee a ceasefire, a Security Council diplomat said. .
According to these plans, the Security Council would later be asked to approve the deployment of an armed, multinational force, to be followed by a UN peacekeeping force, which takes longer to put together, the diplomat said.
The multinational force would probably comprise troops from regional nations such as Turkey, Jordan and perhaps from African Union nations, he said.