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Libya Post-Conflict Planning Has Major Western Support

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TRIPOLI
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

Even as fierce fighting still roils Tripoli, the capital of Libya's beleaguered dictator Muammar Gaddafi, new information is emerging about the major role played by outside civilian and military groups in aiding the rebel military and its transitional government.

On Tuesday, at a surprise press conference in Benghazi, the rebel capital in eastern Libya, Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that his country had secretly funded the rebel's National Transitional Council (NTC) with more than $200 million over the past month.

"We won't accept that any part of Libya be deprived of security and stability," Davutoglu added, promising that NATO countries would continue to provide protection and assistance to the rebel leadership in the coming weeks.

The United States formally recognized the NTC in July as the formal "governing authority" for Libya, granting it access to embassies around the world and, eventually, some $37 billion in frozen assets.

But even as the rebel fighters seemed poised to overtake Tripoli, American officials told the Wall Street Journal that they would proceed cautiously before actually releasing any of the funds.

But Western governments have contributed to the rebel effort in other ways.

According to reports in the American and British press, French and British special operatives have been on the ground with the rebels, and played a major role in coordinating the final strategic push into Tripoli.

More recently, the Guardian reported that, ever since Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif -- once claimed to be in rebel detention -- resurfaced Monday night in Tripoli, NATO forces have taken the lead in quietly preparing for what they hope will be a final strike against the portions of the city still under loyalist control.

After months of assistance from private military contractors, the rebels have now been joined by active-duty British special operatives, the paper said.

Meanwhile, in Benghazi, civilian advisers with one American organization presently advising the NTC report that the leadership there optimistically projects a quick resolution to any lingering conflict in Tripoli.

"All remain convinced that Gaddafi's end will come, whether today or in the coming days," the civil society group wrote on Monday in a report obtained by The Huffington Post.

"There is a perception that Tripoli will stabilize in the near future, just as calm returned to Benghazi after [the] pro-Gaddafi force's retreat in March."

Several observers of the Libya operation have expressed concerns that the post-conflict landscape was not sufficiently mapped out, or that any plans would prove difficult to execute in the chaotic days and months after Gaddafi's fall.

On Monday, civil society and U.S. government advisers sought to counter this perception, with one senior American official telling CNN that the NTC's plans, as reviewed by the U.S. government, were "quite detailed," and included specific programs for public services and democratic governance.

But, the official acknowledged, the longer-term fate of the nation still leaves cause for worry.

"They have set up a timeline, but it's getting from today through Gadhafi's actual departure altogether, to where they're all sitting in Tripoli implementing a transition -- that's the period I'm a bit concerned about," the official told CNN. "I think that they are doing a good job, but we'll just have to see. They have lots of good stuff on paper but it's translating it from paper into practice that remains to be seen, particularly in the initial period."

The American civil society group in Benghazi reported this week that Libyans engaged in the governance with whom they met disputed reports about substantial divisions and tribal factions within the NTC, but conceded that the new government would face significant challenges in demobilizing irregular fighters.

"Many combatants are students and workers who will return to their daily lives," the report said. "However, it is possible that some former soldiers will contribute to potential instability."

The NTC is said to be working on plans to help incorporate the young soldiers into the regular army, where they could be properly trained, particularly on human and civil rights matters.

The civil society group also said that youth groups in Benghazi were particularly looking forward to engaging with their peers in Tripoli, something they had not previously been able to do. Outreach with citizen groups in NTC-controlled parts of the country to explain details of the transition were "not sufficient," the report said, citing a local activist.

"The NTC, on the other hand, has been relatively successful in communicating with opposition leaders in Tripoli to lay the groundwork for a truly national transitional government," the group concluded. "The Council is now engaged full-time on planning meetings to track the pace of developments in Tripoli, and move forward with their transition plans."

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