The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Libyan Afterparty Within Its Own Borders

At Via Meadia, we’re frequently writing about how the decision to invade Libya has had severe repercussions for some of its neighbors. But it’s not like Libya itself is in great shape. Armed militias still operate largely unchallenged by the weak central government, as became painfully obvious with the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi this past September. And there’s also a tribal dimension still at play. For the past five days, militias loyal to the government have been fighting Qaddafi loyalists in his former stronghold of Bani Walid:

A Bani Walid resident said Sunday by telephone that pro-government militias and fighters in the city were clashing on the outskirts. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said there were reports of new casualties, but that the fighting was less intense than a day earlier.

In Tripoli, some two hundred protesters muscled their way into the parliament building, demanding the fighting in Bani Walid stop and saying only civilians are getting hurt. A pro-government militiaman near Bani Walid said there were no civilians in the conflict area, and said his forces helped evacuate hundreds of residents a day earlier.

The tribal element is much under-appreciated by most Western observers when they write about Libya. AI‘s own Adam Garfinkle warned about this more than a year ago, just weeks before Qaddafi’s capture. It’s true that Libya has more or less held together despite these strains. But tribalism remains an important facet of the political realities in Libya, and Via Meadia will be keeping an eye on it as the country’s future unfolds before us.

Published on October 21, 2012 1:40 pm