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TWD Mali Media Offensive

January 16th, 2013 No comments

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 3.44.55 PM

New York- In the wake of the French military intervention in Mali late last week, I felt like it was time for TWD to kick into high gear. On Monday, I appeared on BBC Arabic’s News Hour programme from the beeb’s Manhattan studio (which was actually the NYC AP bureau). The show was hosted by Lebanon’s lovely Fida Basil and featured Mohamed Larbi Zitout, a one time Algerian ambassador to Libya-turned outspoken Algerian dissident in exile in the UK and Akli Shaka, the Leeds-based spokesman for the Imohag (alt. Imuhagh–the endonym of the Tuareg people) and myself. I also did a piece for CNN.com (pictured above) synthesizing recent developments with my work on the ground there in 2012.

Mohamed Larbi Zitout. left, and Akli Shaka, right.

Mohamed Larbi Zitout. left, and Akli Shaka, right.

One of the topics I fielded during the segment was whether or not there would be a Salafi blowback on the French metropole or in amongst any of Mali’s neighbors where security is already inherently sketchy and AQIM essentially has freedom of movement across several over the borders. As I was answering an email to colleague this morning, I cited the GIA’s hijacking of an Air France flight 8969 heading from Algiers to Paris’s Orly airport on Christmas Eve 1994 and the Paris metro bombings in 1995 (as with all terrorist related events related to Algeria’s bloody civil conflict there of course is an alternate theory that the DRS-Algeria’s all-knowing intelligence service-was behind some or all of these events). Not suggesting the GIA in the 1990s is a precise direct analogy but the experience offers some insight. Monday I thought it all but assured that Mali-based Salafi-jihadis would strike in a neighboring state in the very least. Whether they have the capability to strike on French soil remains to be seen I suppose. Let’s hope that is not the case.

In the immediate aftermath of the largely successful raid on the jet at Marseille’s airport in which the four GIA operatives were killed by French commandos, four Catholic priests were murdered in in the immediate aftermath in retribution in Tizi-Ouzou east of Algiers in the Kabylie region which has remained a locus of conflict in some degree or another until the present.

The destination board at the Sévaré bus depot. Destinations to contested, ungoverned spaces. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The destination board at the somewhat forlorned Sévaré bus depot. The prices for these arduous rides are listed in BCEAO CFA francs. Destinations to contested, ungoverned spaces await weary travelers already having come all the way from Bamako in many cases. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

As soon as I hit send on said email, I then checked the news to see something that seemed like the logical next step: a massive raid was launched on a sprawling energy installation’s complex today in which an estimated 41 expatriate workers were taken hostage by men believed to be under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s (a.k.a. MBM, a.k.a. Belawar) AQIM faction “La katiba des Moulathamine” (or is it al-Mouwaqiin bi Dam-”Signatories in Blood battalion” a constituent of or breakaway from the “Masked Brigade”-it seems there is no agreement/too little information at the time of this writing) or AQIM itself depending on reports.

In what was likely a carefully planned assault, militants struck the Ain Amenas liquified natural gas field project being operated by BP, Norway’s Statoil, and Algeria’s state energy concern Sonatrach on Algeria’s eastern border with Libya due south of the triple border with Tunisia.Many believe that Belmokhtar was behind the audacious raid in Algeria’s Illizi Wilayat (province), bringing a flurry of attention to a character generally little known in Anglophone media circles.

There had been speculation last fall that Belmokhtar had been dismissed as commander of his men by AQIM’s overall Algeria-based emir, Abdekmalek Droukdel (a.k.a. Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud) which Droukdel reportedly later denied.

The biggest story suddenly surged from the war in Mali to one of the biggest terror attacks on Algerian soil in many years. Just like that, the news cycle had to catch up to speed on events to Mali’s north in the chaotic midst of learning about Mali itself. As with its captured diplomats in Gao, Algeria taking its characteristically hard line, claims it categorically will not negotiate-much less pay ransoms for-hostages, foreign or indigenous.

Walking along Sévaré blistering hot main drag in June. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Walking along Sévaré’s blistering hot main drag in June. As a desert-modified pick-up truck of Malian troops whizzed by, my cautious fixer urged me not to attempt to photograph them for our own good, much to my disappointment. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Just before the start of the Mali conflict in December 2011, I edited a report by Dario Cristiani entitled “Mixing Ideological and Pragmatic Jihad: A Fresh Look at Mokhtar Belmokhtar.” If you are following me on Twitter, you can DM for a PDF if interested.

UPDATE: In keeping with Algiers’s stated no-negotiations position (despite the fact the government said talks were attempted), Algerian forces launched what could be called a disastrous ‘rescue’ mission. Reports right now are conflicting about whether the operation is still ongoing or whether it has already concluded. Whatever has happened, it has likely been quit bloody.

Myself and

Myself and presenter Fida Basil. Uttering ‘Jamaat at-Tawhid w’al-Jihad fi Gharb Ifriqiyya’ is a hell of a lot more of a mouthful than MUJAO!

Before the current phase of the conflict kicked off, a photo from this blog was used in a report by the International Peace Institute in mid-December.

Before the current phase of the conflict kicked off, a photo from this blog was used in a report by the International Peace Institute, a UN-linked think-tank, in mid-December.

UPDATE: Friend and colleague, the Toronto-based analyst Andrew McGregor appeared on CBC News to talk about the history of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the impact of the Ain Amenas raid, its sophistication and beguiling logistical improbabilities. He also discussed the possible long term effects on Algeria’s energy industry, a key source of that country’s GDP. Click play below.

 

Midnight City

June 29th, 2012 No comments

A local doctor from Médecins sans Frontières-Belgium treats an infant at a camp for internally displaced persons in Sévaré, Mali on June 4, 2012. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Barcelona- In finishing up my tome on Mali for Jane’s it is almost preposterous how fast that story keeps progressing along an entirely negative trend line. I was knocking around google this morning as I like to do from time to time to see where my citations end up. In post the citations mostly for my own records on twitter, someone replied, “Great article but dated considering events unfolding. Mali needs all the help it can to fend off radical Islamists.”

Of course I wasn’t posting these implying they were up to date but that’s mostly what twitter is about, breaking news, not last week’s news. Anyhow, my CNN piece from the other week was cited in Mint Press” “Expanding US Spy Network Across Africa Augments Negative Views Of Drone Use” and Global Integrity: “Mali – A Coup that Might Foster Corruption.” The situation in the north keeps spiraling downward just when one thinks it can’t get much worse. After MUJAO’s rout of the MNLA at the governor’s complex in Gao, we awake to find out that the MNLA has been reportedly entirely run out of Timbuktu by Ansar Dine.

I spoke to a noted silversmith from Timbuktu’s Maison des Artisans called Mohammed al-Mahmoud by phone from France yesterday. He explained that the most difficult thing to deal with for his family and residents still left in his hometown is the constant degree of uncertainty. His family has fled to villages outside the centre-ville for their own safety and some of his extended family have fled beyond Mali’s borders to Mauritania and Niger. Mohammed felt that the sand was truly running through the hourglass for northern Mali’s lost regions and that the next three months were critical if any serious effort to recover the territories is to be launched. In contrast I spoke to a PAO at Stutgart’s AFRICOM offices who didn’t have terribly much to say. Not surprising as is the nature of bureaucracy but it’s nearly a decade down the drain for US taxpayer-funded anti-terror training in Mali that seems to have been all for naught. In the meantime, the peoples of the Sahel will continue to wait and wonder.

Lost forever? Pre-conflict poster from Mali’s Ministry of Tourism promoting travel to the majestic, spartan northern deserts. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Categories: Africa, Mali Tags: , , ,

Mali Malaise

June 13th, 2012 No comments

Mali’s deposed president Amadou Toumani Touré, well known for his close ties to Qaddafi, was apparently in bed with another one of the world’s late dictators, Kim Jong-il. I happened upon this in a new area of Bamako at the end of a lengthy Chinese-built bridge. There I found an area out of character with the rest of the city called Army Square with a cluster of monuments that looked more at home in Pyongyang than Mali’s capital. Upon doing just a little digging, sure enough, they were built by a North Korean front company called Baikho S.a.r.l. that was doing projects for ATT right up until the March 22 coup d’etat. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I have an article out today on CNN.com’s World page from my trip to Sévaré.

Barcelona- Wanted to post some more images from my two weeks in the broken, beautiful Malian republic. I’ve noticed that there seem to be two black-or-white schools of thought on Mali: it is painted as either not nearly as bad as some media reports and politicos have been suggesting or as Mahamedou Issoufou, president of neighboring Niger has recently stated “It [Mali] is not just a threat for the region, but the world.” The ‘West African Afghanistan’ meme has thus been circumambulating the web. There are a couple of problems with the writing and reporting situation on Mali.

One is that the majority of reports about this troubled state are written by those who are either not in the country at present, or as I suspect, certain think-tank types who have never been there in the first place, instead relying on a mix of regional state media sites and rebel statements via their own sites to inform them of what is going on there.

The other issue is that it seemed to me after going to the trouble and expense of actually going to Mali, the CNRDRE junta does not want journos in their midst whatsoever.  My first day in Bamako I went out cautiously with a very small camera to try and feel out the city. I approached what appeared to be a small pro-junta gathering on an open, public street in front of the National Assembly.

Before I could even raise my lens to take a single frame, a pair of plain clothes Sanogo guys promptly escorted me out of the area, telling me that one cannot simply begin shooting photos in Mali of anything remotely political in nature without first seeking permission. Doesn’t sound like the echo of a functioning democracy, does it? According to a good many Bamakois, not only is the north lost, but no one knows when the democratic process will return to Mali.

In sum, Mali is simply a difficult place to both write about and report from.

The FT’s Xan Rice did a nice little article about the weeping Mali billboards dotting Bamako’s roadsides. I featured one of them in my Christian Science Monitor piece which is linked two posts down from this one. Oh and you are interested here and hereare links (en Français)  about the North Korean firm that was (or is?) active in Mali under ATT. Wonder if Sanogo will maintain ties with Kim Jong-un?

In unrelated business I’m cited by UPI in their article “U.S. risks getting dragged into Yemen war” stemming from my Fahd al-Quso piece in Asia Times Online last month.

This is a bronze of General Abdoulaye Soumaré courtesy of Pyongyang. Soumaré was Mali’s first chief of army staff after independence from France in 1960. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Hideous, unfinished LAICO (Libyan Arab Investment Corporation a.k.a. Qaddafi clan) hotel on the northern bank of the Niger River, Bamako. The hotel apparently was being built by a Chinese outfit but the project appeared to be stalled for quite some time. Not surprising considering Qaddafi met his maker outside Sirte last year and ATT is in exile. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Statue of the Victory. Not sure what victory it is referring to but it caught my eye because of the Kalashnikov. I never stop being fascinated by the concept of the Kalashnikov-once a symbol of a creeping Red Army-as an icon of Third World liberation. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Everything that you take for granted in the West, even the smallest thing, is a challenge of some sort in Mali. Everyday when walking around the city I found myself leaping over these open sewers while taking the shortest routes from A to B. Here, my taxi driver jumps an especially big one after leaving the cab to relieve himself. The roadsides make convenient commodes. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Trucks heading south after getting through the checkpoint outside Sévaré. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

 

Heat

May 28th, 2012 No comments

A lone fisherman plies the River Niger at dusk with the neo-Sudanic Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) tower looming in the background. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Bamako's central market. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Bamako- Between a Lisbon airport strike, a Tunis one, and other obstacles, I finally reached the Malian capital a few nights ago. It’s hot as blazes here and quite friendly overall. A low lying city of red, dusty sprawl, I decided to take a long walk around the central market and the Saudi-financed grand mosque yesterday to try and get a feel for the street. I was met with overt hostility in the courtyard of the masjid which wasn’t terribly surprising. I think I’d read before leaving that visitors were not particularly welcome in Malian mosques. I figured it might have to do with the legacy of French colonialism But I thought I’d try it anyhow.

“Musulman? Non? Interdit!!” So much for that.

I stumbled back into the street as touts harked their trinkets and treasures at me. I noted a pair of Chinese women casually shopping as if they were in Flushing, Queens. They didn’t seem to be of any interest to local parties in the way that I was. One of the first things I noticed on the way in from the airport was a shiny car dealership called Great Wall Motors.

Mon chien Malien. Time to take a break from the omnipotent sun. Sleep time. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Across the road there was some sort of small pro-junta gathering in front of the national assembly. Within the span of 10 minutes I managed to stir up a bit more ire. A couple of plainclothes men approached me with what I supposed were stern gazes behind their wrap around sunglasses. They instructed me to carry proper journo identification at all times if I’m to delve into the local political scene. With that, I toured the serpentine back lanes of the market to try and arouse slightly less suspicion. I ended the day cooling  my heels in the shade on the earthen banks of the Niger and walking over Martyr’s bridge back to the guesthouse in Badalabougou.

Meanwhile the supposedly secular MNLA rebels appear to have let their agenda become subordinate to Ansar Eddine’s according to an AFP report. If indeed the case, then that about does it for my idea of meeting the MNLA I suppose… In other news I was quoted on cnn.com while en route to Bamako in their report “Impoverished, fractured Mali struggles to return to civilian rule.”

Studying a parched koran in front of the grand mosque in Bamako. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

"Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip! No time to argue!" Traditional Malian wood carving in the garden outside my room. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A Qaddafi sticker in Bamako, Mali. Want to look into 'The Guide's' legacy here. Note the psychedelic Kalashnikov motif. Nice touch. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Cathedral of Bamako. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A visage of Thomas Sankara, "Africa's Che." Sankara was a radical anti-imperialist and Burkinabe nationalist who was responsible for changing the name of the country from the colonial Upper Volta to the indigenous Burkino Faso. He was subsequently killed in a 1987 coup after particular interests saw him as a direct threat to their inherited power. It seems Che Guevara himself is still a popular figure here. His decals adorned about 1/4 of the city's minibuses yesterday. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Halfway Around the World

February 13th, 2012 No comments

View of Cologne's hulking gothic cathedral in the light of a bone chilling winter's day. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Istanbul, Köln, & New York- It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do an update after about three weeks of nonstop travel and work. I’m just going to post a mishmash of backlogged things of no particular importance. After leaving Antakya I spent a couple of incredibly cold, expensive days in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet tourist district. Long gone are the days of Istanbul being a cheap tourist destination. But in its core, the town hadn’t changed a lick. The dudes who work in the tourist hustle still tell the European and Australian tourists that their names are incongruously things like “Steve” or “Johnny” whilst explaining that they’ve never been outside Turkey in their lives. In that sense it reminded me of my first trip to the city in the summer of 1998. Turkey seemed to have changed a bit in the era of the AK Parti and the Gulen movement and I felt like maybe the Efes didn’t flow as freely (and definitely not as cheaply) as it once did.  But no matter what ideological trends are sweeping across the Anatolian plains, Turkey is still a relative bastion of accommodation between Islam and global modernity.

The legendary Orient Hostel in Sultanahmet. Some of my earliest adventures began from this place including my perilous 2002 trip to the Pankisi Gorge on the Georgian-Chechen border. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I made the observation that Turk Hava Yollari (Turkish Airlines) is sort of a de facto foreign policy arm for Ankara yet again. A decade ago the Turkish national carrier was part of the pan-Turkism policy that reconnected Turkey with its distant Sovietized cousins in Central Asia. When I was at Ataturk Hava Limani (Istanbul’s main airport) the first thing I noticed when I walked in was that the first destination on the departures board was the formerly besieged Libyan city of Misurata. Not Tripoli or Benghazi but a direct flight to Misurata. This intimates Ankara’s soft power desires and influence in the shattered Libyan state across the Mediterranean.

It has always seemed to me that Turkish Airlines has been an instrument of soft power for Ankara. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Too distant to make out in this bad Blackberry snap, I noticed when boarding my flight to Köln that Afriqiyah Airways had painted the new-old Sanussi/Libyan independence flag on its jets above the rear passenger windows (and that it was back flying again after the end of the no-fly zone imposed by the UN on Libya last year). ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I’m still swamped with work related to my Syrian adventure and corresponding interviews with Syrian opposition figures in Turkey. I want to list a couple of things if nothing else than for my own personal archives. My speech from the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique September terrorism conference titled “Western boots on Eastern ground: A Comparison of Western Interventions in the Muslim World in the post-9/11 decade” is now available in PDF form (en Français) on the FRS site. I was quoted twice last week on CNN.com in “No Libya play for the West in Syria” and “How Syria differs from Libya.” This time last week I was presenting my work at an annual security conference comparing the scenarios in Libya & Syria and NATO’s supply lines in Central Asia in Wesseling, Germany which I will post more about when the CIOR site is updated and I have more time.

Statue detail on the lower exterior above an entrance to the Cologne cathedral. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Tough Times for the Free Syrian Army

January 15th, 2012 No comments

New York- A couple of notable videos came online today which I gleaned from the Syrian Youth Movement site. In the first, a German filmmaker snuck into Homs at great risk and links up with FSA rebels in Baba Amr. It aired on CNN this weekend. The second, a Zeina Kohdr segment from AJE reports from a village in northern Lebanon where FSA members have sought refuge. Since it will be a short while before I return to this Middle East, I figured I might as well post some interesting work by others.

One of the more interesting aspects for me in the two reports is how the geographically disparate rebel groupings can work toward a cohesive military goal other than the over simplified notion of ousting al-Assad. They face enormous obstacles without an internationalist intervention of some sort. If it weren’t for such action in Libya, that war would assuredly be dragging on. The obvious difference between the two scenarios is the Israel-Iran factor in relation to Syria. Intervening in Libya was much less complicated in that sense. Chad and Niger aren’t Israel.

A Series of Challenges Await a Post-Gadhafi Libya

August 22nd, 2011 No comments

A Libyan rebel checkpoint outside Zintan. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Barcelona- TWD made onto CNN.com today after new developments in Tripoli stoked even more interest in the now solidifying concept of a post-Qaddafi Libya. In other news, TWD made it onto wikipedia.org in entries for Jalal al-Digheily who had a brief post as the TNC’s civilian defense minister and Omar al-Hariri, the TNC’s head of military affairs.

(CNN) — Tribal rivalries, an east-west divide, a rebel leadership lacking coherence, a shattered economy and the absence of a “civil society” — these are just a few of the challenges that a post-Gadhafi Libya will face.

The rebel National Transitional Council is aware of the perils ahead and has produced a blueprint for the immediate aftermath of Gadhafi’s downfall and for a political process leading to democratic elections.

Haunted by the lack of planning in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the international community — in the shape of the Libyan Contact Group — has urged the NTC to pursue reconciliation.
In a statement Sunday night, President Barack Obama called on the NTC to pursue “a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya.”

But that is no simple formula in a society riven by deep-seated rivalries and with no experience of democracy.
In 42 years as Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi purged Libyan society of any alternative voice or real discourse.
His Revolutionary Committees were ubiquitous, silencing dissent and enforcing the eccentric orthodoxy of the “Brother Leader’s” teachings.
In such a warped society, there has been little space for the emergence of a professional, qualified middle-class, and none for trade unions, opposition groups or other symbols of civil society.

The only organized group not tied to the regime was the Muslim Brotherhood, driven underground by Gadhafi.

As in Iraq in 2003 or Syria now, there is no recognized opposition figure or group that transcends tribal, regional and sectarian rifts.
Gadhafi survived as long as he did, according to Libyan scholar Mansour O. El-Kikhia, by breaking up the power bases of Libya’s largest and most influential tribes.

Lands and influence were redistributed to more “dependable” tribes such as the Warfalla, Qadhadfa and Megarha.

Places like Gadhafi’s hometown — Sirte — received more resources than those regarded as less loyal. But tribal loyalties have survived and perhaps become more important in the absence of other political institutions.

Eastern Libya — where the rebellion began and is still based — has long been at odds with the west, Gadhafi’s power base.
The pattern of the past six months’ conflict suggests that geographical divide persists. Tribes in the west may not take kindly to the sudden dominance of a movement that began in the east. The rebel leadership in Benghazi has tried to co-ordinate with the rebellion in the west — which began in the Nafusa Mountains and in some ways has been more effective on the battlefield — but has not directed or controlled it.

Libya is a vast country — 1.75 million square kilometers – with many “under-governed” spaces, especially in the immense Sahara.
In neighboring states such as Chad, Algeria and Niger, these are the spaces claimed by revolts and more recently by Islamist groups professing allegiance to al Qaeda.

Gadhafi had his own problems with Islamic extremism — the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was one of the most effective groups sympathetic to al Qaeda before its leaders turned against jihad in return for a mass release from Libyan jails. Towns in eastern Libya became well-known for supplying fighters to the insurgency in Iraq, though the rebel leadership insists Gadhafi has exaggerated the threat of Islamist extremism for his own ends.

Then there is the resurgent Berber identity in the western mountains. Gadhafi persecuted the Berbers, a non-Arab minority — even accusing them of being agents of the CIA.

But in the months since his forces have lost control of the Nafusa Mountains, the Berbers have re-established their language (Tamazight), their culture and even their flag. They are determined not to be subjugated again. The Berber Institute for Civil Society issued a statement this weekend setting out the community’s demands: “Tamazight should be recognised in the Constitution in all its dimensions … This is a prerequisite of the Amazigh movement.”

Libya’s oil wealth has been a curse as well as a blessing. It has allowed lavish spending on education (with thousands of students sent to universities overseas) and infrastructure, and government subsidies have made staples affordable for millions.
But there’s been virtually no diversification of the economy; about 95% of the Libyan state’s revenues derive from hydrocarbons. Unemployment probably exceeds 30% and half the population is under the age of 15. The civil service is thought to employ about one in five Libyans.

Gadhafi built up a byzantine bureaucracy, but not one known for its efficiency. The adage among Libyans is “Inshallah, bokra, moumken,” which means “With the will of God, tomorrow, maybe.”

Nor is there much entrepreneurial spirit. Much of the hard work — building railroads, servicing oil installations — has been done by economic migrants and contract workers — and hundreds of thousands of them fled when the fighting began.

But Libya has advantages.

About 80% of its people are literate; electricity is connected to almost the whole country.
Economists say there are long-term opportunities — Libyan oil is plentiful and low in sulphur — if new industries can be built and a work ethic encouraged. Much also depends on whether opposition figures like Ali Tarhouni, who taught at the University of Washington State and holds the economic and oil portfolio, are given authority.

But the immediate priorities, according to western diplomats, center on basic services: electricity, food, water and above all security — priorities that were ignored in Iraq. British Foreign Secretary William Hague has urged the NTC to ensure that technocrats in the Libyan government are not purged.

Libyan opposition officials envisage several thousand Arab troops — possibly from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar — being drafted into the capital to help stabilize what could be a chaotic situation.
Pockets of Gadhafi loyalists remain Where is Moammar Gadhafi? What role will U.S. now play in Libya?

Saddam Hussein’s fall was followed by an orgy of looting in Baghdad. How far the remnants of Gadhafi’s army and police can be integrated into new security forces is a huge open question.

But a template drawn up by the NTC’s envoy in the Emirates, Aref Ali Nayed, includes detailed plans for keeping police units in uniform. Journalist Derek Flood of the Jamestown Foundation, who has recently been in the western mountains, told CNN that he witnessed police training programs under way.

The rebels seem to be aware that a new security force imposed from the east would be a recipe for trouble. Much will depend on whether Gadhafi loyalists begin a campaign of sabotage after he has gone, much as Saddam Hussein’s Baathists did.
There are also plans for an airlift of humanitarian supplies and the rapid rehabilitation of the oil infrastructure, though industry experts say it will be some time before pre-war exports of 1.6 million barrels a day can be attained.

Plans are one thing, but without an inclusive transition and transparency they will be quickly overwhelmed.
For the more unscrupulous, there will be temptations to divert oil revenues to private accounts.
The anti-corruption group Transparency International rates Libya 146th in its corruption perception index, close to the bottom of the league.

The NTC lacks cohesion — a hastily devised group of former regime figures, intellectuals, nationalists, secularists and Islamists. It has also shown disunity to a murderous degree — witness the murky circumstances of the killing of military chief Abdel Fatah Younis last month.
But it’s now the only game in town and under its own transition plan will run Libya for the next eight months. Even the NTC’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has described this option as the “best of the worst.”

Any collapse of authority in Libya would have grim implications for its neighbors — especially Egypt and Tunisia.
Libya has been a source of work for millions of other North Africans. But chaos in Libya would also worry Europe. It could become another route for the flow of drugs from Africa.

Illegal immigration across the Mediterranean is already taxing Italy. And were Islamist extremists, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to gain a foothold, they would have ready access to Europe.

NATO’s Mission Creep in Libya

August 18th, 2011 No comments

Barcelona- I appeared on CNN today discussing some of my observations about my recent trip to Jebel Nafusa. Produced by Tim Lister in Atlanta.

(CNN) — Six months and more than 17,000 air sorties after it began, NATO’s Operation Unified Protector in the skies over Libya grinds on.
What was envisaged in March as a rapid engagement to prevent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces from razing Benghazi to the ground has evolved into a long slog. And increasingly NATO operations have dovetailed with those of the rebels — with the aim of making pro-Gadhafi forces incapable of offensive action.
The initial mandate set out by the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973 was to protect civilians under threat or attack, to enforce an arms embargo on the country and implement a no-fly zone.
“What was initially supposed to be a neutral intervention to protect civilians that were threatened specifically in Benghazi has morphed into being largely a one-sided affair to support the Libyan rebel force to overthrow Gadhafi,” says Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Throughout the conflict NATO has continued to insist that all its actions are aimed at protecting civilians from pro-Gadhafi forces, and that it has not “taken sides.” On Thursday, the Royal Air Force spoke of “precision strikes on former regime facilities at Sabratah [west of Tripoli], including a commando base which had been used by Colonel Gadhafi’s men to launch numerous reprisals against the local people.”
See a timeline of the conflict
But such missions are invariably close to areas where the rebels are trying to break through. In recent weeks, sustained NATO strikes around Brega, Misrata and in the western Nafusa mountains have helped tip the military balance in the rebels’ favor, to the point that Gadhafi’s opponents have become reluctant to enter the fray until air power has softened up the enemy.
Derek Flood, a journalist and analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, has just spent several weeks in western Libya. “I found the rebels had become almost overly dependent on NATO to the point they wouldn’t act without NATO actually softening up the targets first.”
Libyan hospital overwhelmed Rebels gaining ground in Tripoli Libyan rebels claim critical victory Video: Libyan rebels free prisoners
Most recently, rebel efforts to take the vitally important town of Zawiyah, just 30 miles west of Tripoli, were preceded by several days of NATO sorties. NATO lists about a dozen “key hits” around Zawiyah in the past five days. The Royal Air Force also targeted a boat commandeered by several Libyan soldiers to get out of Zawiyah, but a statement said that “since it was clear from their actions that these troops continued to pose a threat to the local population, the RAF patrol engaged the ship,” which was destroyed.
There appears to be growing coordination between NATO and rebel military commanders.
Video footage emerged at the beginning of this month of a column of rebel tanks and pickup trucks, outside the city of Brega in eastern Libya, daubed with orange paint to distinguish them from government forces and ensure they weren’t erroneously bombed.
In previous days, NATO planes had hit several pro-regime targets around Brega.
On a fluid battlefield, where military assets are poorly marked and often hidden in civilian areas, NATO needs forward air controllers to help with targeting.
“Western air forces don’t bomb without that direct ability to visualize the battlefield, especially when the regime has placed so many of its assets within civilian protected areas,” Zenko says.
NATO spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie was pressed on the issue at a news briefing last month. “NATO does not have direct coordination with opposition forces or rebel forces in Brega,” he said. But he added: “We follow the situation through allied information sources that are in the area.”

Zenko says such “allied information sources” may be retired special forces soldiers or military contractors. They are said to be in contact with a liaison office in rebel-held Benghazi, which passes on information to the NATO command center in Naples, Italy.
NATO won’t comment on such arrangements.
The arms embargo has been liberally interpreted by some, with Qatar and France supplying the rebels with weapons and military advice. Qatar is reported to have supplied the rebels with antitank missiles, flying them into Benghazi. And Derek Flood said he believes Qatar was also getting weapons to the rebels via the Tunisian border. In the western mountains “there was support on the ground from Qatari officials as well as Emirati officials,” he said. Tunisian officials deny weapons are crossing their border. Neither Qatar nor the United Arab Emirates have commented on such involvement.
France acknowledged in June that it had air-dropped assault rifles and ammunition to Berber militia groups in the western mountains but said they were to help civilians protect themselves.
At sea, NATO has operated a blockade — in accordance with U.N. resolutions — to prevent any resupply of Gadhafi forces. But in one instance in May a Canadian frigate stopped a rebel tugboat carrying howitzer rounds, ammunition and “lots of explosives” from Benghazi to Misrata. NATO commanders allowed the vessel to proceed on the grounds that it was moving from one Libyan port to another.
More recently, there was the murky case of the oil tanker Cartagena, a vessel owned by the Libyan government but stranded at sea with 30,000 tons of gasoline since May. Rebels boarded the ship in international waters and diverted it to Benghazi with NATO permission. The unknown: Did the rebels have help in seizing the ship? It’s not the sort of operation they are used to.
NATO’s mission has shifted in another way. After hitting more than 3,000 military targets — from ammunition dumps to tanks to radar and command-and-control facilities — there are not many more left. So it has turned to the regime’s infrastructure. The satellite dishes of Libyan state TV were bombed on the grounds that the broadcaster was being used to “incite violence.” The radar at Tripoli airport also was taken out, and the sprawling Gadhafi compound in Tripoli has been targeted several times.
NATO officials say operations will continue for as long as it takes, though how long it takes to do what is an open question. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said repeatedly that the conflict can only end with a political solution, but the outlines of such a solution are far from clear.
Zenko says the goal from early on has been regime change, and the latest tactic is to try to cut off all economic and outside supplies to make it cease functioning.
While the Libyan regime has lost access to much of the country and is losing critical routes to the east, west and south, Derek Flood says it appears to retain control of border crossings in the Sahara desert — from Algeria, Chad and Niger.
The military balance has tipped in the rebels’ favor. Flood says the capture by rebels of the important road junction at Gharyan 80 kilometers south of Tripoli can only further isolate the regime, cutting off fuel supplies from Algeria. Even so, it still controls large tracts of a vast country.
NATO’s current mandate in Libya expires at the end of September. Its members may yet be asked to extend it once again.