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Effort to train Libyan troops 'still in the planning phase'

May. 21, 2014 - 12:48PM   |  
In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, Tripoli joint security forces on vehicles with heavy artillery stand guard on the entrance road to the parliament area after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli on Sunday.
In this image made from video provided by the Libyan national army via AP Television, Tripoli joint security forces on vehicles with heavy artillery stand guard on the entrance road to the parliament area after troops of Gen. Khalifa Hifter targeted Islamist lawmakers and officials at the parliament in Tripoli on Sunday. (The Associated Press)
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As Libya transitions from anarchy to civil war, a plan for U.S. soldiers to train Libyan troops remains on the drawing board.

Since Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has been at the mercy of militias, which have spent much of their time fighting each other. The Libyan government — such as it is — has been unable to reign in the armed groups.

Media outlets reported last year that the U.S. government was considering training Libyan troops for the Libyan central government. Then the Associated Press reported in March that a small team of soldiers would soon go to Tripoli to begin selecting 5,000 and 8,000 Libyans to be trained by about 500 U.S. soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division.

Two months later, the effort to train a Libyan military force has yet to move beyond the realm of the theoretical.

“We are continuing our coordination process to provide training for a General Purpose Force as part of a comprehensive approach to protect the institutions and people of Libya,” said Benjamin Benson, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command. “We are still in the planning phase of this effort.”

In recent days, the security situation in Libya has deteriorated even further. Former Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter has led an assault on parliament and an offensive against Islamist groups in Libya. His actions could transform the conflict in Libya into a civil war between secular and Islamist armed forces.

Benson could not say whether these developments may delay AFRICOM’s plan to train troops for the Libyan government, which may soon cease to exist entirely.

“We do not know how and if the current security issues will affect the planning,” Benson said in an email Wednesday to Military Times. “Planning for that effort is still underway with much still to be determined, so I have no further details to provide at this time.”

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