There is a disturbing sense that the international world is turning its back on Libya, and preparing to ignore the fate of that deeply split country that is struggling to find a new future for itself. The Nato partners who went in to support the rebels topple the former president Muammar Gaddafi have not offered much help to the Libyans as a succession of inadequate assemblies and parliaments have struggled with trying to write a new constitution, restart the economy after decades of predatory dictatorship, as well as failing to disband the militias that helped the revolution, but then remained on the streets to seek political power for themselves.
Last week 16 people were killed and 81 injured in clashes between the Libyan army and Islamist fighters in Benghazi, after an alliance of Islamist militias including Ansar Al Sharia attacked an army barracks. In addition, a third force of renegade former General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in May, and has been fighting ever since. The failing government in Tripoli accuses his “National Army” paramilitary militia of seeking to mount a coup, which could be likely if Haftar is successful against the Islamists.
The fighting is getting worse, but now is the time to help the government rather than desert it. Instead, last week the Turkish and US embassies announced again that they were closing their missions in Libya, and the United Nations, aid groups and several other foreign missions have left. The US has become very sensitive about threats in Libya after the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, about which controversy has dogged the then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.
The US and the others should be helping the fragile Libyan government find the confidence to stand up to its many rebels, and offer the Libyan people some basic security with which they can start to plan their lives with more certainty and build a new future which the richly deserve after the miserable decades of rule by Gaddafi.