NATO has ended its Libyan military campaign after thousands of combat sorties and billions of dollars of alliance and individual participant expenditures.
The alliance’s no-fly zone and naval blockade, which began in March, were terminated at midnight Monday after the U.N. Security Council closed the book on the mandate authorizing military action to protect Libya’s people from the Moammar Gadhafi regime.
Gadhafi is dead. Remaining members of his family have fled abroad.
And the rebel’s National Transitional Council has elected an interim prime minister, Abdel Rahim El-Keib, who will establish a government in parallel with the NTC to set the stage for a national constituent assembly, a new constitution and general elections.
The two events, however, dovetailed others that may not bode well for El-Keib and his pledge to “guarantee that we are going to build a nation that respects human rights and does not accept the abuse of human rights.”
In Tripoli on Monday two people were killed and at least seven wounded when a militia from the town of Zintan battled with Tripoli Brigade allies while trying to enter the city’s hospital to kill a man they had shot earlier.
The Zintan militia, like others in Tripoli and elsewhere, have ignored NTC calls to set down arms and return to their hometowns and villages.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, the wellhead of the rebellion that toppled Gadhafi, the black flag of al-Qaida has flown from its courthouse.
Elsewhere, various militias are reportedly terrorizing individuals and villagers suspected of having collaborated with Gadhafi forces during the rebellion that came to a close last month.
“We know it’s not easy,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a visit to Tripoli. “We know the challenges and if you ask us for help in areas where we can help, we will.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with The Washington Post, also underlined the challenges.
“They have to figure out how to reconcile various political and religious beliefs,” she said. “They have to unify all the tribes. They have to deal with the rivalry that has existed forever between the west and the east, between Benghazi and Tripoli.”
Reconciliation will be a Libyan process. But NATO countries and Arab states can help with financial aid to help the new government and country build infrastructure and recover from months of fighting.
Training of Libyan military and security forces is another, although NATO has rebuffed an NTC request that it help secure the country’s borders.
Especially important to Libya and NATO — the United States included – is securing Gadhafi regime weapons stockpiles and tracking down weapons looted during the war. The regime was believed to have had as many as 20,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Many were looted and are turning up in black market weapon’s bazaars in the Sinai Peninsula near Israel and elsewhere.
U.N. inspectors are on their way to Libya following an announcement by the NTC that two clandestine chemical weapons sites had been discovered.
Whatever the country’s future, Rasmussen made it clear that NATO considered its military participation in the overthrow of Gadhafi a “successful chapter” in the alliance’s history.
Available statistics indicate that NATO combat aircraft flew more than 9,000 strike sorties, in addition to surveillance missions, during the fighting.
But the mission wasn’t cheap by any means for countries struggling with deteriorating economies. Between March and the end of September, the United States spent about $1.1 billion to oust Gadhafi; Britain spent $257 million-$482 million; and France depleted its treasury by as much as $485 million.
Those expenses are borne by the individual countries for using their own assets.
With the death of Gadhafi, Libya has to look ahead at the challenges that the country faces both economically and politically in the aftermath of the war. Stability will be needed to produce a safe environment for reconstruction, rebuilding the country from the ground up with new institutions and leadership.