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Home » Libya » Joint Communique on Libya

Libya and UK consolidate new security relationship

By Michel Cousins
Tripoli, 29 September 2013


Rebuilding Libya’s ability to ensure its security – internally and externally – is seen as the key issue for the government at present. It is because of the lack of security that the eastern oil terminals are blockaded, that Libya’s oil production is down. It is why there have been power cuts and water shortages, why illegal immigrants can cross the country with relative impunity, why organised crime and kidnappings are on the rise. It is why –at the most basic level – traffic is so chaotic on Tripoli’s streets; traffic rules are ignored. And that is not to mention the continuing wave of politically-motivated killings of security personnel in the east of the country.

Whenever the Prime Minister or government ministers head abroad at present, there are requests for help. In New York last week, Zeidan discussed Libya’s security reconstruction needs with the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Germany, the US and the Deputy US Secretary of State, who assured him that they would stand by their commitment to help Libya rebuild its security capacity.

NATO, too, is considering what it can do, following another request for help, from Zeidan to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Even Moscow is being asked. Earlier this month, military and technical cooperation was one of the subjects under discussion when Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz was in Russian capital for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

A significant source of assistance in rebuilding Libya’s security forces is the UK – one of the main supporters of the new Libya during the revolution. The UK has already agreed to train 2,000 Libyan military personnel in Britain as part of the wider training package for 8,000 servicemen agreed with a number of NATO members on the sidelines of the G8 summit in the summer. Ten days ago, when Zeiden meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, a completely separate £62.5-million (LD 125-milion) Security, Justice and Defence Programme (SJD) was agreed. Unlike the military training for the 8,000 servicemen which will be paid for by Libya, the British government is funding the programme.

Some of the details of it were looked into this past week during the visit to Tripoli by the British Minister for International Security Strategy Andrew Murrison. He had talks with the Chief of Staff, the heads of the army, navy and airforce, other top military officials as well as with members of the Congressional Defence and Security Committee.

The SJD programme will “cover all aspects of security to enable Libya to guarantee the security of the state from any form of threat”, Murrison told the Libya Herald.

The UK, he explained, like Libya’s other allies, is determined to help rebuild its state security. “We have an on-going commitment to Libya – at all levels,” he said. But it will not be the UK telling Libya what it needs. Murrison noted the “strong sense” with the Libyan officials he had spoken to that “the solution has to be a Libyan one”.

The aim of the SJD programme is to ensure that Libya has the proper equipment and the technology it needs. But “training is essential,” he pointed out. “It’s part of the package.”

However, because Libya wants “immediate” training, it has to be done outside the country, he said. In this case, it meant in the UK. But that would not be satisfactory for the long term, he pointed out. The training would have to be done in Libya.

As part of the process, advisory and training teams will be set up helping Libya on military, defence and security matters, among them a defence advisory training team and a naval advisory training team.

One of the first SJD projects will be the creation of a explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) school to train Libyans to deal with de-mining and explosive devices.

Another element of the programme is the training for different ranks of the armed forces – from colonels down to NCOs. It would all be done in English. The aim too is that Libyans will be sent to the three top military academies in the UK – the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, The Royal Air Force College Cranwell and the Royal Naval College Dartmouth.

The first Libyan officer is already heading to the UK’s prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies.

“It’s a long-term relationship”, Murrison explains, pointing out that the two countries had had a strong history of military ties until Qaddafi seized power in 1969.

The original Senussi forces that fought with the British against the Italians and Germans in World War II were trained by the British as were the Cyrenaica Defence Force that they became. When it became the foundation stone of the Libyan Army with independence at the end of 1951, the link (and the training) remained – all the way until 1969.

The UK is clearly looking to bringing right up to date a relationship that used to exist.

Source: Libya Herald

Categories: Libya, News, Press

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