Post-Conference Interview with Wolfgang Pusztai on Political & Security Conditions in Libya

During our annual NCUSLR conference held on November 13th, 2018 in Washington DC, many participants raised questions to the speakers that we could not respond to due to time limits.

As such, we have initiated a series of follow up interviews with our conference speakers to answer these lingering questions.

As you go through these questions and answers please keep in mind that neither the questions nor answers reflect the opinions of NCUSLR.

  • Dr. Hani Shennib

Presenter featured in the following Interview:

Wolfgang Pusztai, Chairman of the NCUSLR Advisory Board and MENA Policy & Security Analyst

Wolfgang Pusztai is a freelance security and policy analyst with a special focus on the MENA region. He has both a military and an academic background in strategy. Wolfgang’s military experience ranges from various positions on the strategic level in the Austrian MoD/General Staff to several international assignments (national, EU and NATO); including serving as Austria’s Defense Attache to Italy, Greece, Tunisia, and Libya from 2007 to 2012. He also has long-term experience in the intelligence business. He serves as the Chairman of the NCUSLR Advisory board and a Director at Perim Associates.

Presented at the 2nd Annual NCUSLR Conference on Panel I, The Libyan Political Process: Quo Vadis and on Panel II, Security in Libya: From Containment to Selective Engagement. Topics: “Alternatives to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA): What options?" and "The Libyan National Army (LNA) & the militias: What is the military solution?"

View Wolfgang Pusztai’s LPA presentation here

View Wolfgang’s LNA & Militias presentation here

Post-Conference Interview with Wolfgang Pusztai:

  • How will a limited military option work in Libya and what are the risks/limitations?

Military power can be used to consolidate the areas of influence of the major players and

to fight terrorist groups like AQIM and the IS, especially in the south. Any major

confrontation between the larger blocks, in particular between the LNA and Misrata, but

also an attempt to assume power in Tripoli by force by one of those, could easily lead to

an escalation.

However, overwhelming military power can be also used to pressure opponents and convince some militias to change sides in order to avoid a bloodshed - or to deter an attack.

  • What alternatives are there to the LPA?

Libya needs an interim framework to get stabilized. This could be the slightly amended

old constitution from 1963. Based on this and on a series of local ceasefires, the country

needs to be stabilize bottom-up using the governorates or the historic regions as the

main pillars.

  • Do you think the complex Libya situation will require some form of soft military presence (international)?

An international supervision of a ceasefire would be required to identify any violators

clearly. This needs to include sophisticated technical equipment. The establishment of a

safe zone in Tripoli for the government would be very beneficial, but due to the high

associated risks it is not realistic that there will be suitable forces available for this. On

the other side, an invitation from a proper Libyan authority would be required, but this is

unlikely to happen, as all those who are benefiting from the current chaos would strongly

oppose it.

  • What is the best/worst case scenario for Libya in the next 2-5 years?

The best case is some kind of regional stabilization with a weak central government. The

worst case is an all-out civil war.

  • Does the Muslim Brotherhood stand a chance in the future in Libya and the region?

Yes, they are still very much present in Libya, in particular in northern Tripolitania, and

receive support from Turkey and Qatar. The more people are disappointed from

developments, the more political Islam could be considered an option by them.

  • How will Haftar heed anger by Cyrenaica, Federalists, and Madkhalis?

Haftar is still the unifying and single most influential person in Eastern Libya.

Furthermore, he is the focal point of international contacts of the LNA. In both roles, he

is currently indispensable. Haftar is a staunch supporter of a unified Libya. As such, he

will not address any eastern grievances directly. For him, this can be probably solved by

replacing the current government(s) of Libya with a new one.

The views shared in this published interview reflect those of the guest contributor and not necessarily the views of the National Council on U.S.-Libya Relations.