I became aware of the situation in Libya before it actually broke out. There was something in a news report about a top Libyan, (it could have been Gadhafi) returning home suddenly when on a trip to other African nations after the protests in Egypt began. I made comments on a blog pointing out that something was up. I had not idea about what direction things would take.
There were many things that I did not know about the people who were a part of the original protests in Benghazi. The LSM ran stories about what was taking place, but even those stories were quite sketchy at the beginning. One thing was very clear, and that is, when the people had stormed the fort in Benghazi, and the regime had been defeated, the people came together, and they started taking over various duties that got the city back into working order. This was the first step that led to the formation of the National Transitional Council. The majority of the members were from various parts of Libya, and they included university lecturers and other professional people. These were also the people who remembered Libya under King Idris.
What had not been clear from the reporting was the role of Islamists in Libya with regard to the protests. Yes, there were Islamists and yes they were keen to fight, and considering what they had been through that should be no surprise to anyone. The West has been largely ignorant about the level of the repression that the Libyan people faced under Gadhafi. We did not have a clear idea of the torture, the disappearances and the executions. Gadhafi had made sure that we did not learn the truth… until now.
The fact is that the Islamists teamed up with the pro-Democracy faction in Libya in order to get rid of Gadhafi, but it appears that some of them, the hardcore, have their own ideas about the future of Libya. The pro-Democracy and pro-West faction of the NTC are sincere, but the real question that must be answered is whether they have the strength to hold back the Islamists.
Human Rights Watch discovered documents that pointed to the role of MI6 and the CIA with regard to the rendition of cetain individuals to Libya. One of them is the man who is the head of the military council in Tripoli. The man, Belhadj is not a member of the NTC, and yes he was an Islamist. We need to know more about this man, to determine whether or not he is some kind of threat. It could be that he is telling the truth, that he does not agree with the ideology of Al Qaeda. At this point in time I will take him at his word, because he does seem to be more nationalistic in his approach and less interested in any kind of worldwide jihad.
However, there are others, in or surrounding Benghazi who have other ideas. Already there has been one person that has demanded that the NTC steps down. If I am reading the population correctly though, this man and his friends are in the minority. We shall just have to wait and see.
The people who normally monitor those who frequent jihadist type sites have discovered that a group of Islamists have already started their plotting against the NTC. I guess the good news is that they are being monitored!!
The National Transitional Council is charged with getting Libya running smoothly again after the civil war. There is a lot to be done, and one of their priorities should be to clear away all of the weapons that have been dumped around the Libyan countryside. There is no real certainty as to who might have transferred weapons to Islamists in the Maghreb. I find it strange that this would have happened when the weapons were in short supply, but it would make sense if it was regime soldiers and mercenaries who were abandoning their posts and who were selling off their weapons on a black market. Again, I am speculating on the matter, and this is a situation that needs to be monitored.
The Islamists who were not killed in the fighting over the past 7 months now have the opportunity to regroup. The challenge is ensuring that they do not become a threat to the NTC and the work that is necessary to set up a new government. The liberation of Libya from the dictator Moammar Gadhafi is a golden opportunity to have a country that is, if not pro-Israel, then at least neutral. It is a golden opportunity to have a country that is pro-West in this region.
The activities of these Islamists will need careful monitoring if we are to avoid any further bloodshed in Libya.