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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI239, U.S. AFRICA COMMAND HEAD: ALLAYING LIBYAN FEARS ON THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI239 2009-03-18 14:02 2011-01-31 21:09 SECRET Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO2868
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN
DE RUEHTRO #0239/01 0771436
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 181436Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4633
INFO RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0863
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5160
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000239 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  3/16/2019 
TAGS: PREL MOPS PTER LY
SUBJECT: U.S. AFRICA COMMAND HEAD:  ALLAYING LIBYAN FEARS ON THE 
MISSION 
 
TRIPOLI 00000239  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(S) Summary: On his first visit to Libya March 10-11, U.S. Africa Command's General William Ward explained the Command's mission to National Security Adviser Muatassim al-Qadhafi, reassuring the son of the Leader that the intent was not to establish U.S. bases on the African continent, and that his mandate was to work with willing African governments to improve their ability to provide for their own security. Muatassim said there was a growing problem with terrorists in the Sub-Sahara region and expressed interest in U.S. Africa Command assistance in the training and equipping of the North African Standby Force. Muatassim 's main focus, however, was on the bilateral security relationship. After relinquishing its WMD programs, he said, Libya felt vulnerable and expected the United States to reciprocate by entering into a more robust bilateral security relationship, including weapons sales and security guarantees. General Ward counseled patience and continued engagement with the Africa Command, through the Embassy, to build the relationship. Muatassim expressed appreciation for the General's visit and said he hoped the General could meet his father, Muammar al-Qadhafi, on a future occasion (the Leader was in Nouakchott during General Ward's visit to Tripoli). End summary.

2.(S) Attendees - Libya: Dr. Muatassim al-Qadhafi, Amb. Ali Aujali, MFA Office of Americas Director Mohamed Matari, NSC Director Dr. Hend Siala, Capt. Saf Saf. US: General William Ward, Amb Gene Cretz, Col. David Crawford (Africa Command, North Africa Branch Engagements Chief), DATT LTC Linvill.

3.(S) Muatassim opened by expressing Libyan concern about the Africa Command's mission, including whether there were plans for American bases on the continent. General Ward explained that the intent was to focus efforts that had previously been covered by three separate commands into one. U.S. Africa Command would be more responsive to Africa's needs and seek to increase each country's ability to provide for its own security, but its formation did not portend a change in U.S. policy towards Africa, and there was no intention of introducing bases or large bodies of troops in Africa. He reassured Muatassim that the Command would be based in Germany for the foreseeable future. In response to Muatassim's questions about U.S. "bases" in southern Morocco and the Gulf of Guinea, the General explained that there were no U.S. bases in these countries. The Command had set up a training facility in Morocco under TSCTP / OEF-TS, and was assisting GoG countries, at their request, under the Gulf of Guinea Africa Partnership Station, with training related to securing their territorial waters.

4.(S) Muatassim expressed his interest in seeing the Africa Command assist with the development of the North African Standby Force, providing it with training, equipment, and experts. "Terrorists are everywhere," he said, "especially in the Sub-Sahara, which used to be peaceful." Ward said the NASF was a good initiative and he would provide assistance if host governments asked for it, and after he had consulted the relevant U.S. Embassies. Throughout the discussion, Ward emphasized that the Command's initiatives were undertaken only at the specific request of individual countries and with the concurrence of and close coordination with U.S. ambassadors.

5.(S) In response to Muatassim's question about the relationship between the Department of Defense and the Africa Command, Ward explained that the Command implemented mil-mil activities on behalf of the Secretary of Defense. The General emphasized that the DATT was in direct contact with his Command, and the Ambassador suggested that a strong link between Muatassim's office and the DATT would help the USG better interpret Libya's needs.

6.(S) Muatassim asked about the future of the military relationship between the U.S. and Libya, including prospects for upgrading the mil-mil MOU to a binding agreement, and for Libyan purchases of lethal equipment. Libya could pursue a security relationship with the EU, Russia, and China, but preferred a defense strategy based on a special relationship with the United States, he said. Libya had given up its WMD, leaving its 5 million populace (defenseless) against "tens of millions" in Algeria and Egypt, and needed a fulsome security relationship with the U.S. to protect against this vulnerability. It was in the U.S. interest to be responsive, he implied, if the U.S. wanted to set a positive example for Iran and North Korea. The General responded that Libya's decision to give up WMD was a good choice and showed foresight. Libya's joining the community of nations was a deterrent in itself. The advancing of the mil-mil relationship with the United States would underwrite Libya's decision.

7.(S) Muatassim stated that he hoped to have a response soon to the list of U.S. military equipment the Libyan delegation TRIPOLI 00000239 002.2 OF 002 presented to the Department of Defense during its visit to Washington in January. The Ambassador explained that such issues take time, but the steps Libya was taking -- including Muatassim's planned trip to Washington in May -- would help. Muatassim's planned trip and the March 12 visit by Libyan military to the USS Eisenhower would help build confidence and trust between the two sides. Muatassim noted that six years had passed since the U.S. and Libya had restored ties, and while he was unsure how the new administration would view Libya, he believed the security relationship needed to develop at a faster pace. He said Libya wanted to participate in the BRIGHT STAR exercise in Egypt. General Ward encouraged Libya to participate in PHOENIX EXPRESS 09, and said that such participation, together with other mil-mil engagement, would be positive actions he could cite in his discussions with the Congress, the Pentagon, and the State Department.

8.(S) Muatassim expressed his thanks and said the relationship should be based on trust and understanding. Ward said they would work through the details and build trust. Ward said his HQ was just a place for planning, and that his officers needed to travel to help build partner capacity, including mil-mil activities such as civic action, veterinary, and engineering support available. The Ambassador added that Libya was invited to join TSCTP. Muatassim said he regretted that General Ward would not have the opportunity to meet with his father on this visit, as the Leader was dealing with the crisis in Mauritania as well as the assassination in Guinea. Muatassim inquired if it would be possible for Ward to meet the Leader somewhere else on the continent. Ward demurred, saying he could not go without an invitation from the other country. Muatassim responded that as the Leader was President of the AU, he could invite Ward to visit any country in Africa.

9.(S) Comment: While General Ward's discussion went a long way toward alleviating some of the strong concerns the Libyans had expressed about U.S. Africa Command, the GOL continues to espouse a rejectionist public line -- "Africans reject AFRICOM" -- characterizing the Command as a vehicle for the United States to promote neo-colonial policies on the continent. Despite the negative rhetoric, Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, who reportedly personally approved General Ward's visit and delegated his son Muatassim to meet with him in his stead, views a strong military relationship with the United States as an essential element of his security strategy. At the end of the meeting, Muatassim took the Ambassador aside to strongly urge the General to take up the Leader's offer to visit him in Mauritania. To the Ambassador's reply that the General could not do that, Muatassim said, "The General must come back; I will guarantee a meeting with the Leader when he does." As Muatassim's comments demonstrate, Libya is impatient to broaden the relationship, particularly through lethal equipment purchases and "security guarantees," which they appear to be making the litmus test for the future of the relationship. The challenge will be to reduce the Libyan sense of impatience over what they believe has been U.S. foot-dragging since 2003, their starting date for the new relationship. We have said in follow-up discussions that the relationship in effect began on November 1, 2008, the day the GOL made the final payments due to the claims settlement fund. End comment. CRETZ