CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Oct. 20, 2011 – 3:02 p.m.
Sizing Up Libya as Qaddafi Era Ends
By Frank Oliveri, CQ Staff
With the news Thursday that Muammar el-Qaddafi is dead, lawmakers began calling for immediate U.S. action to help stabilize the fledgling Libyan government, although some stressed that NATO should play a leading role.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were quick to laud the death of the colonel who ran Libya with an iron fist for more than four decades. Qaddafi apparently was killed Thursday by rebels near one of the few remaining strongholds of the country’s old regime. Several Republicans, including Sens.
But the U.S. role appears far from over. First, McCain, ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said the United States should immediately provide medical support, transporting wounded to U.S. military facilities in Europe and in this country.
“There is a compelling need for medical assistance,” McCain said.
At the same time, he said, the United States and its allies should move quickly to secure arms depots within Libya to ensure those weapons do not find their way into places such as Afghanistan or Iraq or into terrorists’ hands.
Reports recently surfaced indicating that shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles from Libya have turned up in Palestinian territories.
Concerns have also been raised about Libya’s arsenal of chemical weapons. “I have continued to stress that it is important we do all we can do to secure and render safe Libya’s large stockpile of chemical weapons and other advanced weapons,” House Intelligence Chairman
Some of the toughest work lies ahead, including helping the new government to consolidate its control of the entire country and rebuild after 42 years of Qaddafi’s rule.
President Obama, in praising Qaddafi’s demise, said the Libyan people now need “to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya.
“Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead,” Obama said Thursday. “But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.”
McCain suggested the United States should encourage non-governmental organizations to quickly move into Libya to provide vital support to bolster the new government.
“There is a compelling need to form the existing militias into a national army” under the new Libyan government, McCain added.
‘This Is a NATO Operation’
Sizing Up Libya as Qaddafi Era Ends
“Capacity-building is important for turning these tactical victories into a broader” strategic success, Reed said.
He said Libya would need technical assistance and diplomatic support. Reed emphasized that Libya, unlike Afghanistan, has a thriving energy economy and infrastructure, with huge potential markets in Europe that probably will help the North African nation get back on its feet.
“We can build on that,” he said. “But this is a NATO operation. There are a lot of closer alternatives.”
As for military-to-military support, Reed said, “We should do what we do well, which is to shape the battlefield, but the military support should come from NATO.”
Other senators also echoed the call for broad international participation in Libya’s future.
“I urge the international community to continue to stand with the Libyan people and support the creation of viable governing institutions,” Foreign Relations Chairman
There has been some concern in Congress that militants, perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda, may have infiltrated the ranks of the rebels who ousted Qaddafi’s regime. Some lawmakers renewed their warnings about cozying up to the new government too quickly.
The No. 2 Republican in the Senate,
He said the United States should always be “forward-leaning” in promoting democracy. But he cautioned that there were still many tribal animosities to overcome in Libya. Kyl went on to compare Iraq and Libya, noting that sectarian factions in Iraq emerged after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Kyl added, however, that the factions in the two countries were very different in nature.
Reed stressed that because the Libya rebellion was from the grassroots, with Libyans in the lead, it had a far greater chance at success.
Kyl agreed. “There is a clear opportunity here and the United States should do everything it can to bring about a representative government,” he said.