UNITED NATIONS (TIP): The head of NATO expressed concern on September 28 about armed groups operating outside government control in Libya and said he was encouraging Tripoli to accept an offer of help to reform its security sector.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the offer to Libyan leader Mohammed Magarief after this month’s attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
“Obviously, it is a matter of concern that individual and independent armed groups operate without superior control in Libya,” Rasmussen told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He said he had offered NATO help to improve security in Libya in a meeting with Magarief at the United Nations. “We have a lot of expertise when it comes to reforms of the defense and security sector and also when it comes to the reintegration of former freedom fighters to a unified security structure in the new Libya,” he said.
“If the new Libya authorities so wish, NATO stands ready to help them in reforming their defense and security sector. We take that very seriously.”
Rasmussen said he was encouraged that the new Libyan government had taken “a number of steps to put these individual groups under control with the aim of creating a strong unified security structure.”
NATO mounted a seven-month campaign of air strikes on Libya last year that helped bring about the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi by rebel groups. It first made the offer to support security reform last year, but Libya has not yet accepted. In New York on Monday, Magarief personally apologized to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the consulate incident, which Washington says was a terrorist attack. Magarief has said that some of those arrested for involvement in the attack were not Libyans and were linked to al Qaeda, the radical Islamist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Libya’s government has sought to impose order on armed groups and the military has said it has removed the heads of two of the most powerful militias operating in Benghazi.