(Note: This is part two in a series that analyses the risk of kidnaps in Libya)
When undertaking an operation as ambitious as physically rooting out wayward militias in Libya, a few ‘security snags’ are expected to pop up along the way.
Indeed, as the Maghreb nation’s government-backed forces remain entrenched in their campaign to expunge armed groups in the capital under the rather unimaginatively titled “Operation Tripoli”, authorities have also simultaneously noted a rise in criminal activity, especially the hostage-taking kind. This has led to assumptions that – in addition to a rise in general reporting from an increasingly confident national police force – the growth of kidnaps as of late could also stem from the intensification of government’s ‘anti-militia’ operations. In other words, these rogue militias, angered by the perception that the world may actually be caving in around them, could be resorting to retaliatory acts of abduction in a last ditch effort to cement their power.
The Mexican economy is on the rise. Often dubbed a “sleeping giant”, things however are starting to change for the Latin American country that has largely remained in the shadows of Brazil. As the Mexican Government have reaffirmed growth expectations of 4% in 2014 this week, the country is looking to become the new regional investment favourite. Latest international financial predictions substantiate this trend, and even place the Mexican economy at the top of Latin America league tables within a decade. However, whilst undoubtedly there is more to international depictions of Mexico as a state riven with drug wars and associated criminal activity, internal security, or rather its deficiency, continue to remain a prime concern for all operating in the country.
The Libyan Government appears to be ‘making good’ on its endless string of promises to finally remove troublesome militias in the capital, as security forces continued with day four of “Operation Tripoli” on 19 March 2013. The operation is part of a concerted effort to dismantle illegitimate armed groups within the city, a top priority for authorities in post-revolutionary Libya who have grown weary over the apparent refusal of some armed groups to relinquish control of buildings in the capital. The plan, which was recently announced by Prime Minister Ali Zidan on 03 March 2013, but orchestrated by Minister of the Interior, Ashur Suleiman Shwayel, is already proving to be successful. Indeed, most Libyans appear to be supportive of the long-awaited measure, a sentiment shared by the hundreds or so number of residents who frequently demonstrate at Maydan ash Shuhada (Martyrs’ Square) in the capital to demand the dissolution of all militias.
So far a number of rogue militias have already ceded control of key buildings in Tripoli’s Gargaresh district, a neighbourhood which, despite being depicted as “Western-friendly”, is considered rife with drug gangs. In addition to raiding buildings in Gargaresh, security forces have also conducted operations near Bab al Azizia, the six-square-kilometre former military strong-hold of deceased dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Meanwhile, government forces also reportedly conducted operations inside local militia headquarters in the southern district of Ain Zara, as well as the eastern Beer Sta Milad neighbourhood near Tajoura, during the early morning hours of 19 March 2013. At time of publication, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths as a result of the ongoing operation. Nevertheless, this is expected to change in the coming days, as both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the MoI have essentially been given carte blanche to expel armed groups from “more than 500 sites” in Tripoli, alone.
Libya has once again found itself in the media spotlight this month, but unfortunately, for all of the wrong reasons. In the past year, the Maghreb nation has generally received accolades from media professionals, with journalists styling the country as a model for would-be revolutionary states. Its relatively quick eight-month uprising culminating in the death of a reviled dictator paved the way for a peaceful and successful parliamentary election in July 2012. Democratic values have flourished in Libya. Public squares, including Tripoli’s Maydan ash Shuhada (Martyrs’ Square), as well as Benghazi’s Maydan al Tahrir (Tahrir Square) and Maydan al Shajara (Tree Square), have become a Friday fixture for (mostly) peaceful protests. The explosion of thousands of newspapers and magazines throughout the country has also become symptomatic of a newfound right to free press, which Muammar Gaddafi gladly suppressed during his forty-two year reign.
This is not to say that Libya is without its faults. The devastating attack on the US Consulate, which left four Americans dead and dozens of Libyans injured, aside, the North African nation has also been blamed for the general decrease in stability across the Maghreb and greater Sahel region, not least of which is due to the proliferation of thousands of Gaddafi-era weapons following the end of the 2011 uprising. And then, there is the problem of kidnaps…
The unveiling of India’s ‘Connect Central Asia’ policy this summer, along with Washington’s ‘New Silk Road’ and Chinese engagement in the region, suggests that Central Asia may be moving towards greater integration into the global economy. As ISAF prepares to leave Afghanistan in 2014, are there grounds for hope that the notoriously contested region will see co-operative and economically fruitful relations between the regional heavyweights?
As ever, the success of these great powers’ policy is inextricably linked to Afghanistan. If the US can identify an exit strategy that guarantees the integrity of the country, at least in the short-term, then a fertile environment for large infrastructure projects may take hold. Unless such stability in Afghanistan is achieved then any progress towards integrating the fragile Central Asian states into the global economy will be precluded. A prolonged internecine war in Afghanistan would destroy the viability of these projects, as well as change the terms of the game into those of a fiercely competitive nature. Only Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which have existing, though limited, access to energy markets abroad, would be insulated.
Importance of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Mongolian economy which needs capital boosts appears to have offset political will to ‘reign in’ projects which are not led by Mongolian firms.
On 24 September 2012, Mongolia’s Government issued an official statement regarding its plans to review all foreign mining investments, pledging “not to single out any deals” in a move that could calm investor concerns over growing resource nationalism. The decision follows months of uncertainly that projects which have substantial existing foreign investment and even ownership, such as Rio Tinto’s plans to develop the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in the south of the country, would now not be subject to special treatment. The move may also indicate that the newly formed government in Ulaanbaatar could remain predominantly moderate, understanding the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI), and the benefits of FDI to an economy searching for a much needed capital boost which at present offset the political will to ‘reign in’ projects which are not led by Mongolian firms.