7 Challenges for Post-Qadhafi Libya

The Libyan ruler isn't out of the picture yet, but when he falls, tough challenges await.

By + More

4. Deal with basic humanitarian issues. Recovering from the country's months of war, it's important that basic utilities, like water, electricity and sanitation, are restored in certain areas of the country and maintained. Not to mention, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, since mid-February when the Arab Spring began, more than 650,000 people have fled the country. There's also hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees that are now homeless within their own borders. Making sure these people find a home is key. "Those are the normal challenges of this kind of civil war, or disruption," says Miller.

5. Put a government in place. With the Qadhafi regime in shambles, the Transitional National Council will have to set the gears in motion for a new government—from drafting a new constitution to, hopefully, organizing a genuine election. In Libya, where a tyrannical leader has run the government for more than 40 years, even the basic idea of power-sharing is an alien concept for many, making democratization an uneasy shift. "Unlike any of the other transitional or transformative changes we've seen in the Arab Spring-Arab Winter, this is unique in that it represents a true political revolution, that is to say a true turning of the system," says Aaron Miller, a public policy scholar in the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East program.

Cortright says this is one area, in particular, where the West can offer their advice. Europe, for example, has experience in democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, and the United States also has helped Latin American nations to establish democracies. But even with such guidance, it could take many years, and likely many election cycles, before a functional democracy is in place.

6. Restart the economy. Libya's economy has basically been at a standstill since the start of the conflict, so restarting it again will be a struggle. The good news for the Transitional National Council is that once they're in charge, they should have immediate access to the assets of the Qadhafi regime that had been previously frozen by the United States and allies. "For many months, the [Transitional National Council] has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Qadhafi Libya. As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the [council] as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Qadhafi regime that were frozen earlier this year," President Obama said on Monday.

Libya also still has its rich oil resources, but it could take a year or two to get the industry back on its feet. Once security is established, private foreign investors might be more likely to invest than they were under Qadhafi's regime, but that confidence too could take a while. "They still have to rebuild institutions, rebuild the infrastructure. That's still going to take time, and they're going to have to deal with pockets of instability while they're doing so," says Malley. [Read how the end of the Libyan conflict could mean lower gas prices.]

7. Communicate realistic expectations. The global economic crisis has taught Americans and Europeans alike that a recovery doesn't happen overnight, and similarly, the Libyans will have to realize that the process takes some time. For the Transitional National Council to be successful in the long run, then, one of the major tasks will be to set and to communicate realistic expectations for the Libyan people. Even if there are struggles ahead, if the government and its people are prepared for the hardship, there may be less opposition. "What's critically important for the [council] is, months from now, in 2012, if they took a poll of Libyans, on the right track-wrong track question, the answer should be, 'Yes, we believe the country is heading in the right direction,'" says Miller. "They're not going to be able to guarantee all these changes, even with international support. The long arc is probably going to be pretty hopeful; you're just going to end up with a lot of troughs and depressions."

Corrected on 08/24/11: A previous version of this article misspelled David Cortright’s name.