Armed Forces Overview: Libyan armed forces consist of an army (Armed Peoples on Duty), air force, Air Defense Command, and navy. The Compulsory Military Service Statute of 1978 made all eligible males between the ages of 17 and 35 subject to a draft commitment of three years of active service in the army or four years in the air force or navy. A 1984 statute mandated compulsory military training for all Libyans coming of age, whether male or female, to achieve total mobilization of the population in the event of national emergency. The law strengthened the People's Militia (formerly known as the Popular Resistance Force) into a 40,000-member paramilitary force. To this day, all forces are under the control of Qadhafi in his role as commander in chief of the military establishment.
Foreign Military Relations: After his 1969 coup, Qadhafi closed U.S. and British military bases in Libya. Although he rejected Soviet communism, he established a relationship with the Soviet Union through large arms purchases from the Soviet bloc. From the 1970s on, nearly 60 percent of Libya’s military imports were from the former Soviet Union as well as other communist countries. In 1984 Libya and the Soviet Union issued a joint declaration of a treaty of friendship and cooperation that would obligate the Soviet Union to aid Libya if attacked, but the treaty was never concluded. According to an August 2004 report of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Libya had security agreements with Algeria (2001), Italy (2003), and Tunisia. Libya intervened militarily in a potential coup situation in the Central African Republic in 2001, deploying 200 of its soldiers to act as a presidential guard. Arms transfers took place in 2003 and 2004 between Libya and Canada, Jordan, Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and Yugoslavia.
External Threat: In the realm of external opposition, Qadhafi's relations with the moderate Arab states, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf states, have been strained at best. He has frequently also been at odds with his North African neighbors, whom he antagonized by supporting opposition elements or by direct military action. Despite these sources of domestic and foreign opposition, foreign observers doubt that Qadhafi would be ousted from his pivotal position in Libya, short of a successful military coup.
Defense Budget: Various sources have estimated Libyan defense expenditures as follows: US$545 million in 2002 and US$742 million in 2003; US$1.3 billion for 1999 and 2000, US$1.2 billion for 2001 and 2002, and US$1.4 billion for 2003; and US$1.3 billion in fiscal year 1999, representing 3.9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product for that year.
Major Military Units: The total number of active armed forces is about 76,000: 45,000 army (Armed Peoples on Duty), 8,000 navy, and 23,000 air force personnel, as well as a small, unspecified number of paramilitary (customs and coast guard) personnel. Libya also maintains a reserve of 40,000 in the People’s Militia. The army is organized into one elite brigade (a regime security force); 10 tank, 10 mechanized infantry, 18 infantry, 6 paratroop/commando, 22 artillery, and 7 air defense artillery battalions; and 4 surface-to-surface missile brigades. The major naval bases are located at Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, and Al Khums. Darnah, Zuwurah, and Misonhah serve as minor bases. The air force is composed of seven commands, two missile commands, as well as an air defense command.
Major Military Equipment: The army is equipped with 500 main battle tanks with some 1,040 more in storage, 50 reconnaissance vehicles, 1,000 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 750 armored personnel carriers, some 647 towed artillery, 444 self-propelled artillery, an estimated 830 multiple rocket launchers, some 500 mortars, 125 surface-to-surface missile launchers (with an estimated 450–500 missiles), 3,000 antitank guided weapons, 600 air defense guns, and an unspecified number of rocket launchers, recoilless launchers, surface-to-air missiles, and surveillance equipment. The navy has one submarine, one frigate, one corvette, eight missile craft, nine patrol and coastal combatants, two mine warfare ships, and nine support and miscellaneous ships. The naval aviation command is composed of seven armed helicopters and one SSC-3 battery. The air force has 380 combat aircraft and 60 armed helicopters.
Military Service: Libya has selective conscription for 3–4 years. According to 2004 data, of the 76,000 active personnel, an estimated 38,000 are conscripts. The estimated military manpower availability for males age 15–19 is 1,588,533.
Paramilitary Forces: The Libyan paramilitary consists primarily of customs and a coast guard, under naval control, with an unspecified number of patrol craft and armed boats. Other security forces include the People’s Militia, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Jamahiriya Security Organization (Hayat Ann al Jamahiriya). According to a 2004 estimate, Libya has more than 40,000 active reserve personnel, with recent army training, in the People’s Militia. The militia patrols rural areas and desert regions. It is primarily considered to be a means of involving Arab tribes with the regime and is not an effective form of border defense. The Revolutionary Guards Corps is composed of an estimated 3,000 trained personnel and seems to be the real frontier protection force. They have access to main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopters, and possibly also to antiaircraft artillery and guided weapons. A unit from the Guards serves as Muammar al Qadhafi’s bodyguards. This unit is composed solely of ideologically reliable female soldiers known as the “Green Nuns.”
Foreign Military Forces: There are no foreign military forces in Libya.
Military Forces Abroad: There were reports of about 200 Libyan soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic at the end of 2001. Additional, more recent information on Libyan forces deployed abroad was unavailable.
Police: The Libyan police force has an estimated 10,000 policemen. Called the “People’s Security Force,” the police perform such usual functions as investigating crime, arresting criminals and maintaining public order, but they also are responsible for the administration of prisons and assisting with passports and identity cards. Special police units are assigned to counterespionage duties.
Internal Threat: Sporadic clashes between Islamic militants and Libyan security forces occurred from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. In 1995–97 Libya launched a military offensive in Cyrenaica, the center of much of the opposition. Since 1998 little or no evidence of any continuing Islamist insurgency has been reported.
Terrorism: In the early 1970s, Libya backed numerous international terrorist and national liberation insurgent groups, providing them with funding, small arms, and training facilities in the desert. These groups included European anti-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Palestinian, Southeast Asian, Latin American, West African, and Sahelian groups. In 1981 the United States banned Libyan crude oil imports, and by 1986 all U.S. trade with Libya was suspended. In 1992, after Libyan implication in several major terrorist actions, the United Nations (UN) placed severe economic sanctions on Libya. The ensuing world isolation and significant economic decline that Libya suffered led Qadhafi to the recognition that assisting terrorist groups was antithetical to Libya’s interests. By the late 1990s, Qadhafi began to change his policies, and in August 2003 he renounced terrorism in a letter to the UN Security Council. As of 2004, it appears that no terrorist groups are trained or based in Libya.
Human Rights: According to the U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report for 2004, Libya’s authoritarian regime continued to have a poor record. Some of the numerous and serious abuses on the part of the government include poor prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, prisoners held incommunicado, and political prisoners held for many years without charge or trial. The judiciary is controlled by the state, and there is no right to a fair public trial. Libyans do not have the right to change their government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion are restricted. Independent human rights organizations are prohibited. Domestic violence against women appears to be widespread, and there have been reports of trafficking in persons. Ethnic and tribal minorities suffer discrimination, and the state continues to restrict the labor rights of foreign workers. One of the more problematic issues is that of six foreign health workers (five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor) who were accused of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in 1999. On May 6, 2004, a Libyan court sentenced the workers to death. International observers have expressed concerns over the confessions of the health workers, which appear to have been forced.