A programme by the Ministry of Defence to train Libyan soldiers has ended ahead of schedule, due to a string of criminal offences committed by several of the men. Initially planning to train 2000 soldiers at the Bassingbourn base in Cambridgeshire, the first group of 300 will leave the UK in a few days time – weeks ahead of schedule – and it is unlikely that the programme will continue elsewhere.
Many of the original 300 recruits were what the Guardian labels ‘former revolutionaries’, meaning rebels that fought alongside NATO and the SAS, in the 2011 war that destroyed Libya’s Jamahiriya government. An MOD spokesman claims that each of the men went through a special vetting process prior to their selection, however this does not seem to have been too successful.
Apparently ninety of the men have ‘withdrawn’, some due to personal reasons, while others had behavioural and disciplinary issues. Twenty more have claimed asylum. Five soldiers have been charged with various sexual offences, including the rape of a man in Cambridge by two of the officers.
It has been reported that many of the recruits had taken little interest in the training and were not doing what they were being asked to do. The men had been instructed not to leave their barracks, but many have been seen by residents in the area scaling the fences to buy food and vodka from nearby shops. Others have left their houses to find Libyan men hiding under their cars, causing a great sense of alarm and fear for the locals.
Other countries that planned to train soldiers have also suffered setbacks. An American-run training camp in Libya had to be abandoned following an attack by militants, and troops trained in Italy and Turkey were not returning to the army when back in Libya but joining militant groups instead.
This episode marks another stunning success for David Cameron’s foreign policy and Libya’s flourishing democracy, with the resource-rich African nation now consisting of not one, but two governments. The internationally recognised parliament was run out of Tripoli by Islamist militia Libya Dawn in August, and are now holding court in a hotel in the eastern city of Torbruk, after initially taking refuge offshore on a Greek car ferry. Meanwhile, the second, self-declared government that now reside in the capital are calling for new elections to be held; following other recent elections in 2012 and 2014.
Ironically, following the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the new Libyan General National Congress passed a series of sweeping laws that limits citizens’ rights to freedom of assembly and peaceful protest, as well as curbing freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
Of course the 2011 war was never a fight for democracy, as if it was then why would Qatar have sent troops?
Cameron speaks in Benghazi: