Will Libya face a post-war insurgency?

Moammar Gadhafi's diehard supporters aren't giving up easily, raising fears that they'll keep fighting long after the hunted colonel is gone

Libyan rebel fighters
(Image credit: REUTERS/Anis Mili )

Things are going well for Libyan rebels and the National Transitional Council (NTC): The United Nations unfroze $1.5 billion in aid for a post–Moammar Gadhafi nation, rebel forces have captured almost all of Tripoli, the Benghazi-based NTC is starting to move into the capital, and Gadhafi is on the run. But forces loyal to Libya's longtime ruler continue to fight on, and as the last decade has shown, overthrowing a regime is just the first step; securing the peace is much harder. Will Libya suffer the same sort of insurgency that still plagues Iraq and Afghanistan?

Yes. More violence is inevitable: Libya's new government "will be assaulted by a Gadhafi insurgency, regardless of the dictator's fate," says Walid Phares at Fox News. We shouldn't expect loyalists to just give up their power and perks after more than 40 years of "undisputed reign over Libya." There are more than enough Gadhafi-friendly soldiers on the run or in hiding to "conduct revenge strikes." The only real question is, how long will the insurgency last?

"After Gadhafi — Insurgency, democracy, or jihad?"

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Libya can avoid Iraq's fate with work and luck: Preventing an insurgency "will be as much art as science," says Brian Fishman at Foreign Policy. It won't take many Gadhafi diehards to "play spoiler" by attacking oil facilities or Libya's new leaders. But if the NTC can build a solid police force, bring low-level Gadhafi bureaucrats and soldiers into the fold, and mop up some of the abundant weapons, Libya will probably "avoid the fate of Afghanistan and Iraq."

"Stopping the fifth column"

And Libya's "remarkable" new leaders are quite capable: Stabilizing the country will entail hard work for the NTC, but writing the nation's new leaders off before they start "is a distorted form of realism," says Leslie Campbell at The Washington Post. The NTC is "acutely aware that it must provide security" and order quickly, and avoid "a Libyan 'de-Baathification'" purge and other deadly missteps from early post–Saddam Hussein Iraq. Already, the NTC has succeeded in corralling "spontaneously organized militias, managing public order in eastern Libya, and planning a post-Gadhafi future" — suggesting that "the Libyan transition may be smoother than expected."

"Is the bar set too high for Libya?"

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