by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. is unlikely to dive headlong into another major military operation in Libya despite the weekend's U.S. embassy evacuation that occurred under heavy U. S. military escort, U.S. experts said.
The U.S. State Department said over the weekend that it evacuated all its embassy staff in Libya under the protection of F- 16 fighter planes and other aircraft in the war torn country after days of fierce fighting between militias there.
Scores of people have been killed and the fighting continues to rage with no end in sight, more than three years after a NATO operation to oust former strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
The country's weak central government has left Libya open to violence from various regional, ethnic and sectarian militias that used to be allies against Gaddafi but now are fighting among themselves in a bid to control the oil-rich country.
But despite the deployment of military assets to escort U.S. diplomats out of the war ravaged nation, experts said the U.S. is unlikely to lead another major military campaign like the one that deposed Gaddafi.
"I don't see that happening right now," RAND Corporation Senior Political Scientist Chris Chivvis told Xinhua, adding that deploying any sort of security stabilization force under the U.N. or NATO, for example, would be significantly more challenging and costly today than it would have been back in 2011.
Indeed, the international community was unwilling just after Gaddafi's ouster to deploy such a force, and any such spur-of-the- moment deployment today would be unlikely, experts said.
It remains unknown when U.S. diplomats will return to Libya, and the U.S. State Department said over the weekend that operations will be suspended until the department determines that the security situation has improved.
"We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua that at this point the U.S. and its allies probably can attempt to interact with various parties in Libya only from afar.
"With so many conflicting nodes of governmental power, and militia or tribal rule dominant in many localities, it will be difficult to grab hold of individual entities that can make a real difference in sorting out this mess," he told Xinhua.
"As I have urged for months, perhaps the best way of trying to make a difference would be to invite representatives of various ( Libyan) parties to a neutral site outside Libya like Geneva under the aegis of the UN in an attempt to sort out their collective differences with most or all the most powerful players in one venue," White said, adding that the U.S. and its NATO allies who backed the uprising against Gaddafi would be prominent among the major non-Libyan players.
LIBYA'S DOWNWARD SPIRAL
Chivvis said leading up to the U.S. embassy evacuation has been a pervasive lack of security since Gaddafi's fall in 2011.
"The lack of security has made it impossible for the government to function, for democracy to function, and has made the various groups on the ground all distrustful of one another," he said.
"And when you add the fuel of Salafist jihadist groups operating in the east and divisions over what to do about Libya's energy reserves into the mix, you've got a very volatile situation, " he said.
White echoed those thoughts, saying the Libyan domestic situation has declined to the point where central authority is severely limited and the interim prime minister has practically no power.
Two powerful militias, one from the city of Misrata northeast of Tripoli supporting parliamentary Islamists and the other from the Zintan area south of the capital backing the secular wing of parliament, have been battling along the airport road in Tripoli and in the airport area for two weeks, he added.
Also, a renegade general based in Benghazi enjoying the support of much of the small Libyan army and air force has been waging a campaign to destroy militant Islamist militias for quite a while, with outbreaks of related fighting in eastern Libya especially, he noted.