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Policy Analysis

Policy Focus 118

In War's Wake: The Struggle for Post-Qadhafi Libya

Jason Pack and Barak Barfi

Also available in العربية

February 2012

During the 2011 uprisings in Libya, rebel militias emerged throughout regime-held territory, fighting Qadhafi's forces despite being largely cut off from coordination with the center of opposition power. By revolution's end, these peripheral militias were stronger than the interim government's forces and had resorted to jockeying for power against each other via gun battles in downtown Tripoli. How can the international community help avoid further deterioration in a country devastated by months of war?

In this new study, Jason Pack and Barak Barfi explain why the United States must take a proactive stance in ensuring that Libyan authorities win the peace, not just the war. Although Washington cannot overtly interfere in the country's internal politics, it can pave the way for NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, private firms, and foreign officials to help the National Transitional Council establish institutions capable of connecting with the periphery. Only then will the center be up to the crucial tasks of building capacity, jumpstarting the economy, and defeating the inherent centrifugal force of the militias.


Jason Pack, president of, has worked in Tripoli and Washington on promoting commercial and diplomatic relations between the United States and Libya. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and the Guardian. He is also a frequent commentator on the BBC and Al Jazeera English. He has addressed the House of Commons on the pressing danger Libya's militias pose to Western interests. Currently a doctoral student at Cambridge University, he holds a master's degree in imperial history from St. Antony's College, Oxford University. His doctoral research focuses on the strategic, diplomatic, and institutional factors that shaped the British Military Administration of Libya from 1942 to 1951.

Barak Barfi is a research fellow with the New America Foundation, specializing in Arab and Islamic affairs. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, New Republic, Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, and CTC Sentinel, in addition to being regularly featured in Project Syndicate. He is also a frequent commentator on CNN, BBC, MSNBC, Fox News, and France 24, and has testified before Congress about the threats posed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A former visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution, he spent six months in Libya during the revolution.

  • 54 pages