| Oct 07 2011
Last Thursday we arrived in Tripoli to the promise of a free Libya. We saw a city that is surprisingly secure and orderly. We visited al-Jdeida prison and spoke freely with detainees—a testament to the commitment of the Transitional National Council (TNC) to democracy, transparency and the rule of law. At the end of the day, we walked through Martyrs’ Square, where Libyans cheered and thanked America and our NATO allies.
We also observed many of the serious challenges that remain. We spoke with some of the 28 militias that are still deployed across Tripoli. We saw the enormous task of rebuilding a country after 42 years of tyranny and seven months of war. And we visited a hospital where we met a few of the 60,000 Libyans who have been wounded in this conflict and will require significant future care—a population that is still growing amid the ongoing fighting in Sirte and Bani Walid.
In short, the Libyans we met want to build a secure, prosperous and democratic nation that rejects violent extremism, allies itself with America and our allies, and promotes the peaceful ideals of the Arab Spring. It is in our national interest for Libya to consolidate the gains of its revolution, and in the critical months ahead we must deepen our support for the Libyan people.
The most meaningful support the U.S. could provide at this time is to help Libya care for its many wounded citizens. From our visit to the hospital, it is clear that Libya does not have the capacity to care for such a large number of wounded, many requiring advanced treatment and prosthetics. Indeed, this is such a priority that the TNC told us they would be willing to draw on the more than $150 billion in Libya’s frozen assets to reimburse the U.S. for the costs of this humanitarian assistance. To this end, we should consider deploying a hospital ship, such as the USNS Comfort, to Libya or Malta. Another option could be to transport Libyans in need of advanced care to U.S. medical facilities in Europe.
We can also help Libya lay the foundation for sustainable security. This requires safeguarding the immense stockpiles of weapons and dangerous materials that exist across the country. It also requires bringing Libya’s many militias under the TNC’s civilian authority, and working toward their demobilization, disarmament and reintegration into Libyan society. We and our allies should encourage this peaceful process as much as we can, and oppose external efforts to pick winners who would advance factional or ideological interests through force.