NATO pullout leaves Libya with hard tasks ahead

NATO Secy. General arrives in Libya
NATO Secy. General arrives in Libya

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Story highlights

  • NATO officially declares an end to its mission in Libya
  • Civil war and the NATO bombing campaign left Libya without a functioning army
  • An NTC official says it may be too soon for NATO to end its mission completely
  • The military alliance's leader says, "We have done what we promised to do"
Two major announcements came out of Libya within 24 hours: The country's new authorities had discovered some of Moammar Gadhafi's chemical weapons and need help dealing with them, and NATO was ending its mission to protect Libya's civilians.
The first piece of news highlights some of the potential problems raised by the second: After months of civil war between Gadhafi's forces and those of the National Transitional Council, punctuated by nearly 10,000 NATO bombing runs, Libya does not have functioning security forces.
"What's happened in Libya is that what army there was defected to the opposition or fragmented and disintegrated," said regional expert David Hartwell.
Naming a new government will be the NTC's top priority, but establishing security is also crucial.
"Security is going to be high (on the list of priorities) given the need to protect their borders and the number of heavily armed people on the streets," said Hartwell, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at IHS Global Insight in London.

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In fact, a military spokesman for the NTC told CNN it was too soon for NATO to call a halt to its Libya mission.
"To cancel it -- I don't think that it was the right decision to cancel it at this time," said Col. Ahmed Bani, who believes that Gadhafi loyalists still pose a threat.
But NATO did not have a lot of choice about whether or not to end its Libya mission, Operation Unified Protector, said Hartwell.
The United Nations mandate underpinning it expires at the end of October, and there were domestic pressures in many NATO countries to end the mission, he said.
The military alliance's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, put a much more positive spin on Monday's announcement -- he declared mission accomplished.
"We had been mandated by the United Nations Security Council to protect civilians and that, basically, has been a great success," he told CNN as he flew from NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, to Libya. "We have prevented a massacre. We have saved countless lives. We have fully implemented the United Nations mandate. That was our mission and we have done what we promised to do."
But the end of the current mission does not necessarily mean the end of NATO involvement in Libya, Hartwell said.
The alliance can help to educate security forces and police in "transparency, rule of law, human rights, that sort of thing. In Libya that's a fairly major task, really a bottom-up process," he said.
"Discussions remain ongoing about the role (NATO) might play in the future," he said.
For the moment, NATO says they will be led by the NTC and is trying not to give the message that they'll go "over the heads of the people who caused this revolution," said Dan Hamilton, director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins University.
However, Hamilton said he believes NATO is "very ready" to help with the next phase for Libya, although it will follow the Libyans' lead: "I think they've been very cautious about getting out in front of what the Libyans would say."
He noted that the coalition that came together was not just NATO, but also included the European Union and other Arab countries.
As a military alliance, it does not have unlimited capacity, he said.
NATO "doesn't do good governance. It doesn't do the rule of law," he said.
It can provide troops and help ensure security and search for extra weapons, he said, but "in terms of real money and resources and expertise, you could turn a bit more to the civilian side of things," such as the U.S. State Department, the EU or the U.N.
Libya's oil industry is in reasonably good shape, which will help, he said.
"They don't necessarily need lots of money," Hamilton said, but instead expertise and consultation. While sorting that out might be a bit complicated, he said it likely will not take long.
However, any request for support from the U.N. or from NATO might be met with opposition from nations -- Russia, China, Brazil and India, for example -- who feel that the boundaries of the previous measures on Libya were exceeded.
"They're not in the mood to support a continued NATO thing," he said. "It will be hard to win them back."
"We succeeded on the Libya thing, but at a certain cost," he said.
The end of the NATO mission may not be the end of U.S. military involvement, the Pentagon said Monday.
"There will be some kind of overwatch role for a little while after the actual end," Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby said. "We are still working with our NATO allies on that."
U.S. manned and unmanned aircraft played a key reconnaissance role in the Libya operation even after U.S. forces stopped taking the lead combat role after the early weeks.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said he did not yet have information on the last American sorties before the formal end.
"You want an orderly transition out of the operation, that is something we are looking at closely as well," Little said.
The bottom line for Libya's new rulers, said Hartwell, is that there have a lot of friends around the world right now.
So when it comes to tasks like securing stores of leftover chemical weapons, or building a new army, he said, "NATO may have a role. NATO advisers and Arab state advisers will probably remain to help assist provided the NTC is happy to see them remain. There's no shortage of help that they can call on."