- - Sunday, July 30, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Since the revolution in 2011, which was supported militarily by the United States, Libya has been ruled by divided governments. Today there are actually three governments attempting to govern simultaneously, one of which — the Government of National Salvation — I serve as prime minister. The lack of political unity has made our fight for stability and security against extremists that much harder.

Indeed, whatever hopes we have for democracy are at risk; representative government is a new concept here and it will not be legitimate in the eyes of our exhausted country unless we have functional institutions and can protect our people. To that end, it is crucial that America not forget us, but help us toward a political solution that reconciles our differences.

My first priority as prime minister has been to rid Libya of extremist elements, be it ISIS, Daesh, al Qaeda, Ansar al Sharia or whatever is the name of the day. As I have said on many occasions, fundamentalism and terrorism should be fought, as they betray the principles of Islam and the promise of a free and peaceful Libya. President Trump has recently said that he is prepared to support Libya in its fight against extremism and we welcome that and are ready to partner in that fight.

We have created and trained special teams at the Misrata air base who report directly to me and have been deployed on countless missions against the terrorists and fought bravely in the successful purge of Daesh from Sirte. We have also established the Counterterrorsim Service (CTS) which has exchanged important and crucial information and data with the U.S. and European intelligence agencies.

But as we fight, we must also renew our efforts to bring together a national unity government. Here, the international community has failed us. Immediately following the revolution, the U.S. and our European friends were cheered in the public squares of our towns and villages. But the task of building a functioning pluralistic government for people who suffered under a brutal dictatorship for generations was gravely underestimated.

The international community at that time faced its own problems of slow growth and political uncertainty and didn’t engage Libya with the strong financial, political, and military support we needed.

The chaos that ensued has implications beyond our borders, best illustrated by the immigration crisis of thousands from other countries beset by conflict and poverty transiting through Libya to Europe. Our inability to prevent this transit is simply due to our lack of a single unified and strong central government. The internal Libyan problem has become an international nightmare for Europe.

For these reasons, I am prepared to support international efforts to help us bring together a national unity government that takes into consideration the principles behind the revolution and brings fairness and opportunities for all regions and societal segments of our great country.

While this is no easy task, it must be done for the alternative of further chaos and fighting can no longer be tolerated or allowed. I do not desire or seek a role in this unity government, but rather to encourage it and to be a part of a new generation of Libyan leadership that is drawn from and returns to ordinary citizen life.

My caution to the U.S. and our other friends is that the unity solution cannot be perceived as a government imposed on us by the outside. Libya needs the support of indigenous and impartial broad-based groups such as the Libyan Political Agreement Committee that brings together leaders from all aspects of our society.

The LPA supports no political party or candidate but seeks to bring people together in common cause. We must be reminded that democracy is not simply an election; it needs to be nurtured by non-governmental organizations that work on behalf of Libya as well as by an independent press, an independent judiciary and civilian control over a national military.

Indeed, these features are the building blocks of a stable, functional, self-sufficient democracy. Unity will allow us at last to develop a national economic strategy that touches all segments of the population. One of my first tasks as prime minister was to establish the Strategic Projects Committee. This consisted of leaders from many industry sectors though out the whole of Libya.

This committee is charged with outlining and describing the immediate and necessary commercial opportunities needed to be exploited on urgent basis such as power generation, road and bridge repair, health and education infrastructure rebuilds and more. But we cannot encourage it, oversee it, finance it with a fragmented government. What’s more we need a single sovereign nation to repatriate much of our frozen and stolen financial resources and to attract capital investments, especially from the U.S.

Mr. Trump was right to focus on security as his top priority in Libya; terrorism and the ideas that inspire it are a transnational phenomenon. But we can’t merely kill our way through the problem. We need to present a credible alternative to the nihilism of extremists, namely, a successful experiment in governance that can bring more and more people into the fold and eliminate the grievances that terrorists prey on. Keeping Libya on the U.S. dashboard has the potential to give democracy a beachhead in a crucial region.

• Khalifa Ghwell is the prime minister of Libya.

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