In 1943 the British Armies and its allies liberated Libya from its 32 year occupation by the axis powers during World War II; leading to Libya's independence in 1951, the first country to gain independence through the United Nations. Half a century after independence, the United Kingdom was once again at the side of the Libyan people in helping to overthrow the oppressive regime of Qadhafi after more than 40 years of autocratic rule.
2011 Revolution and the United Kingdom
In the spring of 2011 the United Kingdom was at the forefront of NATO's effort to protect the Libyan people as part of Operation UNIFYING PROTECTOR. At the height of the revolution in 2011 the United Kingdom deployed around 4,000 military personnel, 37 aircraft and four ships to the Mediterranean region in support of these efforts. We now have a dedicated Defence Advisory Team made up of military and civilian personnel who are helping to create a new Ministry of Defence and modern Armed Forces for a new Libya. Libya now faces the challenge of building Armed Forces capable of securing Libya's borders and providing security and stability for all Libyan people and throughout the region.
The Defence Advisory Team is part of the United Kingdom's wider contribution to stabilisation and development in Libya and works as part of the British Embassy in Tripoli. Our role is to help build capacity within the Libyan Armed Forces and to assist in the development of modern military capabilities. We are also helping to develop a democratically accountable and civilian led security sector with a focus on the structures and activities of the Libyan Ministry of Defence. Additionally, our work supports the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Libyan authorities to remove unexploded ordnance and more safely manage its stocks of ammunition and weapons. We also have a good relationship with other international partners including the European Union and other countries at the forefront of activity to support Libya. We have advisors working with the Libyan Ministry of Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force and the Libyan Mine Action Centres.
Disarmament Programme Manager with the British Team, UNSMIL and Colonel Mohamed Torjman of the Misratah Military Council at an ammunition storage area.
As The Senior British Military Representative, I command the military members of the team and direct their activities as well as requesting support and assistance from the United Kingdom Government when needed. I have been engaging with the higher echelons of the Libyan Armed Forces in order to understand their particular requirements and to assist, when requested, Libyan plans to build their capability. There are many ways the United Kingdom can help support these plans and much of this support work is conducted and coordinated with other partners such as the United Nations.
The highlight of my time as the Senior British Military Representative has been working alongside the Libyan Armed Forces.
The advisor within the Libyan Ministry of Defence has been made very welcome and consequently has made good progress in providing advice on likely structures and departments that the Libyan Ministry of Defence will need in order to carry out its role in the future. Considerable work has also been completed in contributing to the production of a 'Towards a Defence White Paper' document in conjunction with UNSMIL. This process will support Libyan work to determine the future tasks for the new Libyan Armed Forces and how to best achieve their goals.
The Disarmament Programme Manager has been supporting elements of the Armed Forces and Police to manage and remove dangerous ordnance left over from the revolution and previous conflicts, and how to effectively control and account for munitions in the future. A United Kingdom Explosive Ordnance Disposal team has also visited Libya to help repair and conduct essential maintenance on Improvised Explosive Device Detection equipment that will allow the Libyan Improvised Explosive Device Detection team to improve its capability. An additional United Kingdom team has visited Libya to analyse the training requirements for a Libyan Explosive Ordnance Disposal capability and support efforts to establish a Libyan Explosive Ordnance Disposal School.
The more recently arrived advisors with the Libyan Air Force and Libyan Navy are starting to provide pragmatic support to the building of capability in these two services. Their experience in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will allow them to give sound advice on the structures, role, equipment and training required to stabilise Libya through its air and maritime capabilities.
The Defence Advisory Team has provided access to higher education in the United Kingdom for six Libyan Ministry of Defence personnel to learn English on a year long course at De Montford University in Leicester; they will also receive administration training from British Forces. English language training has also been conducted in Libya with a course, at the Janzour Naval Academy in early 2012, by British Army education officers and further training is being organised with the training department.
Graduation of soldiers from the Oil Protection Force at Janzour Naval Academy.
We have also arranged for Libyan Navy officers to embark on officer training at the Royal Navy's world renowned academy in Dartmouth, where they will train along side their British counterparts as well as other nations who will provide the senior officers of the future. In addition the United Kingdom has hosted senior Libyan officers on visits to the United Kingdom where they have had discussions with political and military leaders within the British Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces.
In June 2012 a Royal Navy hydrographical survey vessel, HMS ECHO, docked in Tripoli harbour as part of its routine work in the Mediterranean and Suez Canal. This was an excellent opportunity for Libyan Naval personnel and students from Tripoli University to interact with the Royal Navy and included joint training at sea. A highlight was a game of football between the Libyan Navy and the crew of HMS ECHO, which the Libyan Navy won 6-1. The crew of HMS ECHO were cheered a little to learn that the Libyan Navy had previously beaten a visiting French Navy team 9-0!
The crew of HMS Echo play football against the Libyan Navy.
Two senior Libyan officers have also attended a 'Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context' course that was held at the Defence Academy in the United Kingdom. The course is designed to enhance knowledge and understanding of how the Armed Forces are managed within a democracy.
The British Prime Minister is determined that the UK will continue to provide required support and assistance to Libya in the years to come. In the near term we have plans to support a project to establish a Joint English Language Training Centre in Libya to provide English language training across the Libyan Armed Forces. We are also discussing with senior Libyan officers the creation of a Joint Operations Staff that will allow Libyan officers across the Armed Forces to plan and conduct their own joint operations utilising ground, air, air defence and naval assets integrated with other Libyan ministries. There are also plans to train more senior officers as well as civil servants on a future 'Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context' course in Malta that will also be attended by officers and officials from neighbouring countries.
Six Libyan Ministry of Defence employees prepare to embark on a year-long English language training course at De Montford University in Leicester, United Kingdom.
The UK has been a partner of Libya at key points in its history, none more important than the support provided during the revolution in 2011. One year on we are providing the new democratic Libyan government with support in developing the defence capability it requires for the future for the benefit of all the people of Libya and in support of international and regional stability. We are proud to work alongside our Libyan partners and hope that both our countries can enjoy a beneficial and fruitful relationship in years to come.
by Colonel Mark Turner Senior
British Military Representative