The big news in Libya today is the convey of 200-250 Libyan military vehicles that has reportedly crossed the border into Niger, perhaps on their way to Burkino Faso. Over the years Burkino Faso has received a substantial amount of support from the Qaddafi regime (Qaddafi was a major player in the coup that brought the current government to power) and has offered asylum to Qaddafi. The large military convoy joins Mansour Dhao, head of Gaddafi’s security brigades, who reportedly fled to Niger on Sunday and a smaller convoy of military vehicles that allegedly was carrying gold and cash from the Libyan Central Bank. The new flow of Qaddafi supporters into Niger has led to rumors that Qaddafi himself has left the country, but Mussa Ibrahim, Qaddafi’s spokesman, has said that the former leader is still hiding out in Libya, ‘where no criminal gangs can get him.’
Mansour el Kikhia, from the University of Texas (see video below,) has said that the movement of Qaddafi troops across borders is extremely worrisome for the TNC as it might be a precursor to a cross-border insurgency effort. Should Qaddafi follow suit and flee to Niger or Burkino Faso, he will be greeted by Qaddafi loyalists who will have been able to reorganize. For Qaddafi, the fight is not only a matter of survival, but “he wants to get back at the Libyans who he feels have betrayed him.” Interestingly, el Kikhia says that what is important is not how much actual support Qaddafi has left, but rather “how much support he thinks he has left.”
While it may seem as though el Kikhia is contradicting himself here – focusing on Qaddafi’s perceived support while warning against a cross-border insurgency – any amount of violent disruption will have much larger effect on the perceptions of the Libyan people. In other words, a weak insurgency is able to create a disproportionate amount of havoc, particularly as the TNC attempts to organize national elections. As I have noted before and as el Kikhia reiterates, it is extremely important that the TNC quickly organize a national police force able to maintain order throughout the country. El Kikhia even goes as far as to suggest the use of western drone aircraft to monitor the border of the country to ensure that Qaddafi troops do not attempt to reenter. While it remains unclear whether Libyans would support the use of western drones or if western governments (see: the US) would be willing to deploy them, the suggestion highlights the role security (and the ability of Qaddafi to undermine the perception of security) plays in the capacity of the TNC to avoid a slip back into civil war.