Libya after Qaddafi: Lessons and Implications for the Future

Libya after Qaddafi: Lessons and Implications for the Future

Libya after Qaddafi: Lessons and Implications for the Future

Libya after Qaddafi: Lessons and Implications for the Future


In 2011, NATO and a number of Arab and other countries backed a rebel overthrow of longstanding Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. When Qaddafi was killed in October, the intervening powers abruptly wrapped up military operations. A small United Nations mission was given responsibility for coordinating post-conflict stabilization support. The essential tasks of establishing security, building political and administrative institutions, and restarting the economy were left almost entirely up to Libya's new leaders. The results of this very limited international approach have been lackluster at best. Libya has fallen behind on a number of critical post-conflict fronts, jihadist groups have made inroads, and there is still a possibility that this newly freed nation could once again collapse into civil war. Although Libya's fate is ultimately in the hands of Libyans themselves, international actors could have done more to help and could still take steps to avert further deterioration of Libya itself as well as the broader region. This report is based on research and interviews with officials in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels, and Tripoli and draws on existing RAND work on post-conflict reconstruction. It explains the challenges that Libya faced after the war, assesses the steps taken to overcome them, draws implications for future post-conflict efforts, and sketches a way forward in Libya itself.


This report assesses Libya’s first two years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. It analyzes key developments in political, military, and economic areas, and explains the role of the international community. Drawing on existing literature on civil wars and post-conflict reconstruction, it outlines steps the international community might take to improve Libya’s future outlook and draws some tentative conclusions about the implications of Libya’s experience for future postconflict reconstruction efforts. A particular focus is the consequences of the failure to establish security in the immediate aftermath of the war.

The situation in Libya is dynamic and continues to develop, as do the policies of Libya’s international supporters who have been involved in helping Libya manage a very difficult transition from war to peace. The work was begun in 2012. This is the final report of the project, and takes into account developments through early 2014.

Funding was provided by the Smith Richardson Foundation. The research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD). NSRD conducts research and analysis on defense and national security topics for the U.S. and allied defense, foreign policy, homeland security, and intelligence communities and foundations and other nongovernmental organizations that support defense and national security analysis.


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