By Ray Fleming

HOW often do we hear politicians say after some balls-up, “The lessons will be learnt for the future·”? We are about to find out whether lessons were learnt from one of the most disgraceful failures of recent time -- America's lack of a post-victory plan for Iraq in 2003 and the consequences that are still to be felt to this day. Because America had no plan to use either selected members of the Iraq army or of the country's quite able civil service, Iraq was left for several critical years without internal security and competent administration.

A similar situation could arise if Libya's National Transitional Council refuses to use provenly capable and politically neutral people from Gaddafi's governments to help restore the battle-weary and fragmented nation that is now on the verge of unity and peace.

The Transitional Council, based in Benghazi in the east and recognised as the sole representative of Libya by 32 countries, is not an impressive body and has been without a cabinet since 8 August when its army commander was murdered by unknown assassins. The capture of Tripoli, if it is finalised and Gaddafi is deposed, will be to the credit of rebels in west. Both elements will need to observe the utmost restraint to avoid misunderstanding and differing objectives and to share power appropriately. Has Nato a continuing role to play?

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