By George Grant.
Tripoli, 11 December:
A group of Congressmen are working to dismiss Major General Yousef Mangoush as army chief of staff, . . .[restrict]the Libya Herald has learned.
More than 50 members have privately added their names to a motion calling for an evaluation of the most senior office holders in Libya who were appointed under the unelected NTC and Kib Government, and consequently without democratic oversight.
Mangoush heads the list, which also includes Central Bank Governor Sadek Kabeer and Intelligence chief Salem Al-Hassi, because it is his performance which is said to be the greatest cause for concern.
“We are going to try and discuss changing the important positions in the state”, said Tawfeeq Ebraek Othman, a National Forces Alliance member for the Tobruk, El-Guba and Derna constituency.
“The first person we want to question is Mangoush, because he has done nothing since he took up his position. The most important question is why has he not established a national army until now?”
As Governor of the Central Bank, Kabeer has been criticised for poor priotisation and failing to address Libya’s liquidity crisis, whilst Al-Hassi will surely be scrutinised for failing to develop any meaningful plan to apprehend the perpetrators of the fatal attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September.
It is understood that the majority of those supporting the motion are members of the NFA or independents. Members of the Islamist Justice & Construction party along with Congress members from Misrata, where Mangoush – though born in Benghazi – originally has his roots, are said not to be included.
Since his appointment as chief of staff on 2 January 2012, Mangoush has frequently been criticised for failing to control the military of which he is nominally the head.
During October’s siege of Bani Walid, the chief of staff’s office admitted to the Libya Herald that several of the assaults launched by the predominantly Misratan forces surrounding the town had not been authorised by the general.
On 18 October, units from the National Army were dispatched by Mangoush with the intention of entering Bani Walid peacefully following an agreement to that effect brokered by a government delegation with local leaders five days earlier.
Shortly after their departure, however, the units were turned back, with the soldiers surrounding Misrata having resolved to enter instead by force. That evening, standing against the backdrop of the national army crest, armed forces spokesman Mohammed El-Gandus announced that the full-scale assault on Bani Walid had begun.
Mangoush has also come in for criticism in Benghazi, where brigade leaders have openly boasted of the control they exercise over the man supposed to be controlling them.
In an unclassified US diplomatic cable sent on 11 September 2012, the day of the Benghazi consulate attack, a 9 September meeting is recounted with the leader of Benghazi’s Libya Shield 1 brigade, Wissam Ben Hamid and Mohammed Al-Gharabi, then head of the Rafallah Al-Sahati brigade.
In the meeting, the two men claimed to exercise “control” over General Mangoush, whom they said “depends on them to secure eastern Libya.”
The cable continues: “In times of crisis, Mangoush has no other choice than to turn to their brigades for help, they said, as he did recently with unrest in Kufra. As part of this arrangement, Mangoush often provides the brigades direct stocks of weapons and ammunition.”
Although the landscape shifted significantly following the death of Ambassador Stevens and the Save Benghazi demonstration that followed, Benghazi’s brigades still operate with effective autonomy. The two national army colonels appointed to take control of Rafallah Al-Sahati and the 17 February brigade – as part of the drive to replace militia leaders with professional military ones – were quickly sidelined. Colonel Salah Al-Din Bin Omran, the anointed leader of Rafallah Al-Sahati, is now said to be in Sirte, whilst Colonel Amrajaa Al-Msheiti operates from an office not even located on the 17 February brigade’s compound.
As yet, it is not known whether the Congress motion will gain sufficient momentum to take effect, but there are plans to table the issue for discussion as early as Wednesday.
“This is the security of Libya we are talking about”, said Othman. “We cannot afford to take chances with that.”