Obama, not Bush, expanded military aid to Libya despite human rights abuses

Tuesday, March 15, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The administration of President Barack Obama requested military aid for Libya in 2011 despite massive human rights violations, a congressional report said.

The Congressional Research Service reported that the Obama administration had been preparing to relay military aid to Libya this year. In a report by Christopher Blanchard and Jim Zanotti, CRS cited plans to provide military education and training for Col. Moammar Gadhafi's security forces.

The report said military education funds for Libya were first requested by the Bush administration for fiscal 2009, but was not provided. The report cited a 2009 State Department report on continuing rights abuses in Libya:

"Continuing problems included reported disappearances; torture; arbitrary arrest; lengthy pretrial and sometimes incommunicado detention; official impunity; and poor prison conditions. Denial of fair public trial by an independent judiciary, political prisoners and detainees, and the lack of judicial recourse for alleged human rights violations were also problems."

This month, the administration has reported that the United States suspended military cooperation with Libya, Middle East Newsline reported. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the cooperation was not significant, but did not elaborate.

"For FY2010, the Obama administration requested $350,000 in International Military Education and Training funding for Libya to 'support education and training of Libyan security forces, creating vital linkages with Libyan officers after a 35-year break in contact,' " the report, titled "Libya: Background and U.S. Relations," said.

CRS, which provides background to members of the House and Senate, said Libyan participation in the U.S. military education program would have paved the way for additional training.

Instead, Obama expanded military cooperation with Libya during his first year in office, the report said. CRS said the White House requested the Libya be eligible to receive weapons under the U.S. Foreign Military Financing program.

"The Obama administration also requested Foreign Military Financing assistance for Libya for the first time in FY2010, with the goal of providing assistance to the Libyan Air Force in developing its air transport capabilities and to the Libyan Coast Guard in improving its coastal patrol and search and rescue operations," the report said.

The administration also approved a Libyan request for the modernization of Gadhafi's air transport fleet. Libya acquired 10 U.S.-origin C-130 aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, in 1970.

"FY2011 FMF assistance is being requested to support Libyan participation in a program that assists countries seeking to maintain and upgrade their U.S.-made C-130 air transport fleets," the report said.

The report, completed in February, did not say whether the Gadhafi regime benefited from U.S. upgrades of his air force or navy. The administration has acknowledged that Congress blocked plans for an upgrade of Libya's armored personnel carrier fleet.

The U.S. military has engaged the Gadhafi regime in a dialogue to upgrade Libyan forces, reported at less than 120,000. The report said Libya's military remained poor and unable to acquire the huge amount of equipment it ordered from foreign contractors.

"Libya's current military leadership presides over a largely stored and surplus catalogue of weaponry with poor maintenance records," the report said. "The military also lacks sufficient numbers of trained personnel to operate the military equipment currently in its possession."

In 2006, Washington lifted its arms embargo on Libya. While the United States was said to have banned lethal weapons for export, European Union states have offered Tripoli a range of aircraft and other combat platforms.

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