Benghazi — With Libya plagued by terrorist attacks and daily assassinations, many are urging authorities to rapidly restore a professional army.
Magharebia sat down with Colonel Ahmed Bani to get a handle on the situation and how the country can secure borders, restore order and protect citizens. As a military expert and former defence spokesman for the National Transitional Council, Colonel Bani has an inside look into the challenges facing Libyan security.
Magharebia: Why is building the Libyan army still being delayed?
Colonel Ahmed Bani: The word building does not apply to what is happening now in Libya. There was a Libyan army that was fragmented; therefore, we cannot talk about rebuilding. The correct term should be to rearrange the cards of Libyan army. Of course, what delayed it is the dire situation experienced by Libya at all levels from the army to the police and judicial branch as well as the economy and health services, as a result of difficult circumstances.
Magharebia: How can the Libyan army be "rearranged"?
Bani: In line with modern technology and based on quality rather than quantity. Technically, we should focus on the air force and take advantage of the lesson Libya learned from UN Security Council Resolution 1973. The implementation relied totally on the air force; we need to build a strong air defence.
Magharebia: And how can Libya secure its borders?
Bani: Not even a large army can secure our borders because they are vast. So we must build our army on quality rather than quantity. We should use high technology aircraft flying at high altitudes and operation centres on the ground. One plane can cover large areas if it coordinates its efforts with operation centres. Then, securing the border becomes easy!
Magharebia: What is the status of members of the al-Kadhafi Brigades in Libya's future army?
Bani: When the former regime sensed the approaching threat from the military, especially in the eighties and nineties, it started relying on soldiers' personal loyalties. Thus, these brigades were established based on their loyalty to the former regime. I doubt they will switch sides. Those killers have no place in the Libyan army, even though I saw some of them fleeing Kadhafi's convoy when it was attacked in Benghazi on March 19th, 2011. Those who fled are welcome but those who killed Libyans have no place among us.
Magharebia: What about civilian rebels who fought Kadhafi as well as the shields that consist of civilians?
Bani: What determines if a person can join the army is the person's desire coupled with his mastery in fighting and field experience. We cannot recruit weaklings. These young revolutionaries fought fiercely and do not lack courage or combat experience in desert and urban warfare, streets or mountains, as happened in Jebel Nafusa. I welcome their joining the army but according to army standards that allow for building a strong military.
Magharebia: During Kadhafi's regime, there was a mandatory military service for civilians. Do you support its return?
Bani: It did not occur to Kadhafi that his tricks would turn against him. We have benefited during the February 17 revolution from the experience of a number of young people trained in tanks, mortars, artillery, rockets and 14.5mm and 23mm cannons. The national service was implemented only to count the number of young people and keep an eye on them.
Military service is a valued national service and I support its return. I think young people will accept it to honour the blood of the martyrs. We all must learn how to bear arms.
Magharebia: How do you explain the latest assassinations targeting military officers?
Bani: Most of these martyrs are nationalists. Recently, Colonel Abdullah Barasi, a pilot in the Air Force specialising in Antonov aircraft piloting, was killed. He was a hard-working patriot who joined the revolution from the beginning. He was among the pilots who played a role in transport operations to the city of Misrata during the revolution, despite the risks those trips represented. He also flew to Jebel Nafusa. His assassination surprised me. Whoever stood behind his murder is not a free patriot.