Background Briefing

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
En route Malta
October 17, 2011

MODERATOR: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on our way to Malta, where we will spend the night and then head into Tripoli tomorrow. To talk about the Secretary’s visit to Tripoli, we have two of our Senior State Department Official‘s. Take it away,

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay. Thanks. Hi, everybody. Can you hear me? Okay. As I said, as we discussed on Friday, this will, of course, be the first cabinet level U.S. official into Tripoli since the fall of Tripoli about two months ago, also the first cabinet level official since 2008, Condoleezza Rice’s visit.

There are three main purposes to the Secretary’s visit. First is simply to offer on behalf for the United States, on behalf of the American people and government, our congratulations, our best wishes to the Libyan people for what, through great hardship, sacrifice, and courage, they have achieved in opening the door to a more promising future for Libya after 42 years of the Qadhafi dictatorship.

The second area of focus for the Secretary’s trip will be the whole range of transition-related issues, the way moving forward. The TNC has, of course, done a number of things, such as reiterate Libya’s commitment to the Geneva Accords and Additional Protocols. They have recently set up a state security council to work toward the centralization of militias. They have created a ministry of war veterans to deal with the issue of the war wounded with the people who have fought courageously for new Libya, because a lot of it needs to be  done going forward.

So the Secretary will want to talk about how they will overcome some of the challenges they’re facing in fulfilling some of their promises in this area. She’ll want to talk about governance, she’ll want to talk with them about their views on transitional justice and accountability, on issues related to the economic future going forward, those sorts of things, so a whole area on how the TNC, how the Libyan people, foresee the transition moving forward.

The third area that she’s going to want to talk about is our belief that an expanded deeper partnership between Libya and the United States, both at the official level and between the Libyan people and the people of the United States, is in the mutual interest of both of our countries that we can work together to help the Libyans fulfill their goals for themselves, for their country, with full respect for Libya’s sovereignty and in recognition that the Libyans are the ones who are responsible for Libya’s future, that the Libyans will be answering questions about how Libya’s to be governed going forward.

In this context of an expanded and deepened partnership, the Secretary will be talking about a number of initiatives. For example, one of the challenges the TNC is facing is the treatment of the war wounded. This has, of course, humanitarian aspects, but it also has political ramifications, that the people who fought for Libya, fought for Libya’s future, fought for the new Libya can be cared for by Libya’s governing institutions. And so this has short, medium and long term implications.

We’ve already provided from State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, from AID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance some grants to deal with the immediate emergency trauma care. But the Secretary is hoping to launch in the next few days, and to be able to talk to the Libyans about this now, some additional measures in terms of medium and longer-term medical care for the war wounded; for example, working with the private sector in order to be able to provide the medical equipment to get Libya’s own medical facilities fully functioning again.


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Spare parts for equipment, the reagents and other chemical agents that are needed to make medical equipment work properly, to provide the equipment as well the input for those equipment. Also talking about reagents, the reagents for the equipment. We’ll also be talking about the possibility of doing staged relocation of some of the wounded to specialized facilities in the United States. We also want to launch help on tracking patient care to make sure that medical personnel, medical doctors, know what’s being done with each patient in a modern, transparent way. So she’ll be talking about these sorts of things with the idea of launching soon a multifaceted partnership that Ambassador Cretz, our Embassy, along with Bob Hormats, have already been working on putting the foundation in place for.

We also want to talk about, in that expanded deepened partnership, how we work with Libya’s new generations. And in this, the secretaries will be announcing to the Libyans that we are restarting our Fulbright Program that, of course, was suspended during – because of the hostilities and our desire and our plan to expand that Fulbright Program.

The same goes with English language. English language skills provide opportunities for young people to find jobs, to help expand the Libyan economy. And we want to restart an English Access program that we had with underprivileged students before. We want to – we’re restarting that program. We want to expand it to reach more students in Libya. Along with that, we’re going to be having a part of the English language program focused on, again, the war wounded, so that they, too, can acquire the sorts of skills that will allow them to play a productive role in the new Libya.

We also will be talking about a new program that we are supporting through a $180,000 grant between Oberlin College and archeologists in Libya, Oberlin College in Ohio and archeologists in Libya to map, to document, to do risk assessments of the archeological sites in eastern Libya, including a UNESCO world heritage site, which is the old Greek ruins city of Cyrene, C-y-r-e-n-e. These are some of the most important archeological sites, and they too can help provide diversification for Libya’s economy going forward.

QUESTION: Eastern Libya?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Eastern Libya. AID and the Middle East Partnership Initiative are also continuing their work with civil society, including putting linkages between Libyan youth and their peers throughout the region to help integrate Libyan civil society, Libyan youth into the broader Middle East-North African-Mediterranean region to help overcome the years of lack of development of the civil society network.

Before the hostilities, the Libyan economy, 70 percent of the GDP was based on oil. Ninety percent of Libya’s exports were oil. The TNC has talked about the need and their goal of helping to diversify the Libyan economy into a broader sense, to make sure that you don’t have the sort of cronyism that characterized what happened to the oil wealth of Libya, that Libya’s oil wealth is used to provide opportunities for all the Libyan population. So we also want to be talking to the Libyans about how to integrate Libya fully into the 21st century world economy in transparent ways where Libya’s oil wealth is used for the benefit of all of Libya’s citizens.

Now, I think with that, I’m happy to try to address some questions.

QUESTION: Can you talk about security a little bit?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, I’m sorry, of course it’s important – this goes back a little bit to the transition issues, but it’s important for any government to be able to provide security for their citizenry. And as I said, they’ve set up now a state security council to start what’s going to be a challenging process of unifying the militias, disarming some, but putting centralized security control. But part of it also is making sure that conventional/non-conventional weaponry in Libya is fully secured.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Conventional and non-conventional weaponry in Libya is fully secured and accounted for. And in that, the Secretary will be talking to Libyan officials about the fact that we will be increasing our assistance on the MANPADS destruction to nearly $40 million dollars.

QUESTION: Forty million?


QUESTION: And how many people will be going in? I mean, what’s the number of persons?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have 14 now working with TNC teams, and these will be expanded. And it’s not just the United States that’s working in this area. I think you already know that Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, was in Brussels last week talking to others about getting them to assist. We already have commitments from the UK and Canada and maybe other countries as well to also be working on MANPADS. So it’s not simply the United States working; it’s a number of countries. The TNC itself has teams on this issue because they recognize it. So it’ll be a number of people, but our own contribution will be worth – will be approaching $40 million now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Essentially, we’ve been ratcheting up the amount of money we’ve put into the conventional weapons destruction week on week as the TNC has asked for it, as their own capabilities have grown. And the Secretary will make an additional pledge on this trip, which will bring our contribution up to about 40. We had been between 25 and 30. We’ll be up to about 39 to 40.

QUESTION: So it’s not 40 million new, it’s not 40 million new?


QUESTION: The amount is about 15 million new?


MODERATOR: Are we ready for questions?


QUESTION: What is she going to talk about, what are your thoughts in terms of working with the government on integrating former loyalists that have already abandoned Qadhafi?


QUESTION: Former loyalists and integrating, like, former military reconciliation?

MODERATOR: The question went to reconciliation and disarming militias, et cetera.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, we all know the TNC has said that they welcome working with anyone who doesn’t have blood on their hands, that their policy is to be as inclusive as possible. There also, of course, is an issue of the political credibility of the TNC itself. It has to be able to show that it has political credibility, that it’s able to also have places for those who actually fought for the liberation of Libya in the governing structures.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So the TNC is trying to both include those who, as I say, don’t have blood on their hands in the governing structures, but also find a way for those who feel that they have fought for Libya’s freedom and future are also able to participate. This is one of the questions that the Secretary will be talking about.

QUESTION: There is a lot of fighting is still going on and the Secretary was mentioning the fact that she thinks that he’s going to continue to try to use his loyalists. And I’m wondering if you’re encouraging them to extend their amnesty period.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, there are already many, many examples of people who were working for Qadhafi’s government who have gone back to work, who are working for the current government. But you’re right; the fighting is still ongoing, so there still are pockets of people who remain with Qadhafi, and we’ve heard – we’ve all heard his threats. The best thing for Libya would be for Qadhafi and his crowd to realize that they are part of Libya’s past and to allow everyone else to start building Libya’s future.

QUESTION: Do you think setting up the TNC – the security apparatus be a key part of how well they stick to the rule of law?


QUESTION: Will they stick to the rule of law. I mean how they arrest people, how they prosecute and so on. How closely are you watching that? I mean, are they doing the right things?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ve seen encouraging signs but we also know very well that there have been examples of people who have not been following the orders that the TNC has very clearly issued. The TNC has reiterated that the policy is no retribution, no acts of revenge, that any issues of justice and accountability will be handled according to transparency and the rule of law. But let’s face it, it is going to be a challenge for them to make sure that in all cases they are able to have fair judicial procedures that meet international standards, just given the history of Libya over the past 42 years. The intentions certainly strike us being sincere, we have positive examples, but there’s definitely going to be challenges going forward.

QUESTION: The Secretary said that it appeared that she thought Qadhafi himself (inaudible) that actually he didn’t have command and control, direct command and control of those forces. So is the Secretary saying that Qadhafi still is the leader of these forces that remain loyal to him or is it just sporadic groups in Sirte?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The Secretary was speaking about these kind of dead-ender spoiler forces like we saw in the outskirts of Tripoli on Friday. I don’t think she in any way meant to imply that the guy’s got command and control.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, you have got people fighting in Sirte. You have people fighting, first of all, we should say none of us know where Qadhafi is. Yeah, we’ve all heard the rumors. None of us know where Qadhafi is. But he has people, henchman, loyalists, sons, here and there who still have circles around them. I don’t think there’s any coordination going on between them. I think you’re having pockets of people who are trying to stop the flow of history ahead.

QUESTION: One more quick question, isn’t it a little premature for the Secretary to come when there is still fighting going on and Qadhafi still out there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think it’s exactly the right time for us to be coming, to be working on expanding and deepening this partnership I talked about. It’s not only that we want to be talking to Libyan officials about their own transition plans forward and how they translate their commitment to justice, transparency, rule of law into practice, but it’s also to signal to the Libyan people that we want a normal partnership going forward that’s based on civilian relationships, that is based on the type of normal foreign policy considerations that the Secretary of State looks to achieve in all of her trips.

We have participated in a major led mission to protect Libyan civilians going forward. But we’re at a transition now where it’s going to be the civilian partnership that’s going to define the relationship between Libya and the United States going forward.

QUESTION: Can you explain the opposite of that? What took her so long to get there? She’s like the last one into this party. Hague has been there, Cameron, Sarkozy has been there. I mean, Frattini’s been there. It seems like pretty much all of the allies have had meetings, what took so long? And then secondly, how many – this war wounded thing you seem to suggest is a major situation, how many are we really talking about here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Secretary has been the lead in the U.S. Government on Libya since the time that the President made the decision that we would join the NATO-led coalition, that we would help set the theater for the protection of the civilian mission that the NATO-led coalition carried out.

The Secretary has been the one that’s gone to the Libya Contact Group meetings. She was in Paris and London at the beginning. She was in Paris at the end of this. She has been working in Washington with the interagency, with the State Department, to make sure that we are marshalling all of our efforts to develop this partnership.

Don‘t ask it one way, like it might be too dangerous. Our question like that Kim and I are getting at is that no one’s questioning the commitment here. You don’t have to say that she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread in the U.S. Government on Libya. The question is, if everyone else has been there, why now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, she was doing Libya things. I think everyone who’s been following us would have known.

QUESTION: You’re answering like we’re questioning her commitment to Libya or the government’s but we’re not. Why – really, why is she the last one to enter this?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Look, I think it was a matter of wanting to ensure that the Transitional National Council was at a stage that it was ready to have a Secretary of State sit down and talk to them about the path forward rather than the immediate needs today. So this, as [Senior Administration Official One] has made clear, this trip is, first, to congratulate them on how far they’ve come, but also to start talking about we worked together in medium term and how we set the table for a long-term, completely different partnership between the United States and Libya that is deep and broad, and they needed to be at a certain stage of their own stability, security-readiness, to think about the future before she could come.

QUESTION: Do you have any estimate on the war wounded?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The UN estimates there are 15 – about 15,000 – the UN estimates that there are about 15,000 war wounded – 15,000 – one, five – 15,000 war wounded, of which, like, there are 1,500 amputees.

QUESTION: What is the message about doing this visit with Qadhafi still at large?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Qadhafi is the past. He’s still at large, yes. He still is providing sort of a lethal nuisance factor that is a distraction for many Libyans from getting through (inaudible), but you – I think you’ll see in Tripoli, as those of us who have already visited Tripoli saw, as those of us who visited Benghazi saw, that the people of Libya, by large measure, are already plotting the future without Libya.

QUESTION: Without Qadhafi.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Without Qadhafi. I’m sorry. Plotting the future for Libya without Qadhafi. So yes, he’s a nuisance. Yes, he’s still providing problems here and there. But the Libyans are not waiting to build a better future for themselves, for their children, for their country.

QUESTION: To follow upon the timing of the visit. I know that she’s very committed and it doesn’t matter exactly where she goes. She goes through for the TNC to – but a lot of people have fought, in terms – the British, the French. Where do you think that the United States fits in the picture in terms of the importance of relations between the TNC and then outside players? I mean, are you as important, more important, less important than the Turks, the British, the French? Or what’s your sense that they really want to partner up with the United States? And as a follow up on that, project managers decided in consultation with the TNC that they expressed interest in that idea?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Let me start with the last because, as I said earlier, it’s the Libyans who are making the decisions about Libya’s future. And what they’ve told us is they want the skills to be able to build a diversified economy. Those skills include, obviously, English language type teaching. They want to be able to provide health for the wounded warriors who fought for Libya’s freedom. So the programs that we’re hoping to launch will address that need, which is both humanitarian and political.

They have told us all through this conflict that they want a different type of economic base for Libya, where they are able to take advantage of U.S. business interests to bring skills, technology into Libya, so it’s not so overly reliant on just one sector, and one sector that wasn’t managed very transparently in the past.

So the programs that we designed are, in fact, designed with the knowledge of what the priorities are that the Libyans themselves are telling us. Now, not everything is TNC. Part of this is training, capacity building for civil society, working with women’s groups. There’s been a remarkable blossoming of civil society in Benghazi and later in Tripoli with the liberation of those cities, with lots of groups working on free media, working on charity, working on trying to provide legal services, and they’re looking for help from us for capacity building.

I don’t know where I would put – how the Libyans view us. I don’t know – I can’t rate us in terms of how the Libyans view us, but I can say that when we look at Libya, we see a country on which we have hoped to build, after 2004, a closer, deeper partnership. We never really realized that potential before. Now, not only do we have a better potential inside Libya itself because of the freedom that the Libyans themselves achieved for themselves, but also, if you look at the potential for a different type of relationship across North Africa, given the changes in Egypt and in Tunisia, we may now have the ability to increase trade ties across the region, to use the Deauville process, that France wants, that we will take the presidency of next year, to build cross-Mediterranean ties. I think that we have the potential for much more regional integration within North Africa, from North Africa, across to the Mediterranean, and more globally.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: I would just add to that I think it’s a positive thing that so many countries, so many of our own allies, want to be part of the support for Libya. So if we can all do it together, if we can pull together and make sure that we are working off of the list of Libya’s own needs, their own requests, one part --

QUESTION: A follow-up on that, you were talking about diversifying their economic base, so what specifically have they told you, beyond the tourism, which would come from archeology? What other sorts of business opportunities do they have? What other kinds of industries can the U.S. specifically help them with?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What we’re talking about is, first, privatizing some of the state monopolies, because much of the economy is state-owned. And so the TNC sees privatization as being one of the engines to diversification and growth. Now, many of these decisions have to wait a more permanent governing structure. The TNC is being very careful about not taking significant decisions on dismantling this or dismantling that until they are able to assure themselves of a more popular base. They’ve very mindful of the fact that that “T” in TNC stands for transition.

But they’re also looking for the type of business and language skills that could allow a Libyan entrepreneur class to develop that, up until now, has been mostly confined to the very small service sector.

QUESTION: Would – but privatization would involve potentially American companies or other multinational companies to come in and be part of that privatization?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It could. It could. The blueprints have not been drawn out for all this yet. The TNC just had a World Bank and IMF team talking about the economy there, so I think that they’re working through some of these – many of these questions. But so far, they have been, in our view, fairly responsible custodians of the wealth of the Libya people.

QUESTION: Do you agree with that timetable? Do you worry that eight months could create more instability?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The TNC in mid August issued what they’re calling a constitutional document. It had a timeframe to go through several stages to get to eventually the presidential elections. In the first stage of it, within 30 days of the declaration of liberation, which is, they will say, we’ll have after the liberation in Sirte, is to set up a broader TNC, what they would see as a more representative TNC. So the first stage is to have a government that would be designed to take into account the geographic diversity of a liberated Libya in way that helps address some of the credibility issues that you’re hinting at in the question.

And then that government would, within 90 days, draw up an election law for those elections would take place 240 days later, so that people can see that there is a process going forward. I think from our perspective, the important part is to see momentum, that – look at the example of Tunisia, for example. Tunisia set out, they changed it a couple times, but there was always a day out there after the constitutional referendum that’s taking place on Sunday. And I think that the Libyans, by setting these markers in place, and then by starting to go through the stages, the Libyan people will see the TNC truly is interested in a transition.

I’m not a democracy expert. Some people have told us eight months isn’t long enough to get all the in place, but other people have said because of the credibility issue of an elected government, it needs to be sooner. But I think the important thing is to be able to show the Libyan people that there is momentum, and the constitutional document sets out.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with that timline?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s not up for us to say whether we’re satisfied.

QUESTION: Are you guys pushing the TNC at a faster pace?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re pushing the TNC to be able to show the Libyan people that they’re serious in their commitments to a transition, they’re serious in their commitments to rule of law, they’re serious about getting to those elections.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: We also have a huge number of things that need to happen after the electoral law is set and before you can have an election in a country that hasn’t had them the way they need to.

QUESTION: How concerned you are about their resilience and the possibility of civil war causing huge problems.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We are concerned, but when you see the popular reaction over most of the country to the departure of the Qadhafi forces from the different parts of the country, I think it’s clear which way the winds are blowing.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: As I said before, I wouldn’t underestimate Qadhafi’s ability to be a lethal nuisance. But I also am convinced by what we’ve seen, that despite all the challenges, the Libyan people are going to prevail with the liberation of the entire country.

MODERATOR: Okay, two more and then we’ve got to let [Senior State Department Official One] go.

QUESTION: All of these programs you mentioned at the beginning, do they have a price tag on them? How much can you talk about them?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If you talk – I can use my cheat sheet. If you talk about adding it all up in terms of monetary value, when you include the humanitarian assistance that we’ve already delivered, you’re talking about $135 million. But I would say that what’s less interesting than the monetary value, because we’re not talking about enormous sums of money when it comes to a country with the type of assets that Libya has, is the sectors in which we can now work in which we were unable to work before. The type of partnership that we can build with Libya’s civil society, with the Libyan officials, that we were unable to build before. So that I find all this much more interesting in the content than the monetary value.

QUESTION: The 135 dates back to when? The 135 million number, you’re saying includes money we’ve already included?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Including the – it includes the humanitarian since the beginning of the conflict. Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


MODERATOR: One more. Anybody who hasn’t had a chance ask a question?

QUESTION: Are you concerned about extremists that some members of the TNC that there were these splinters the Secretary called them like threats or something. Is that still a concern that what – do you think, like, if this is prolonged that there’ll be splinters in the TNC that (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I wouldn’t underestimate – I would not underestimate the challenges that the TNC faces, particularly in terms of the unification of the security services under civilian command. We have seen more and more militia leaders participating in the state security council, but not all are yet participating.

QUESTION: What? Not all of them?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Not all of them are yet participating. There’s an increasing number of militia leaders who have come together under the command of the state security council, which is a centralized institution that’s organizing the militias into four different brigades, disarming some, finding opportunities for others. And there’s an increasing number of people who are participating in that.

QUESTION: Why is the oil minister involved in this new security integration?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s in his role as deputy prime minister he’s doing this. And also the finance minister because there’s – you need to pay salaries. But not all of the militias have yet come on board. More are. More still need to come.

QUESTION: You’re not worried about where all the money goes?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, what I’ll say is yes, we’re concerned. But we see and hear from the Libyans that they understand the type of threat that al-Qaida can pose in an unsettled environment, and they’re doing everything they can to prevent those kind of inroads.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, everybody.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2011/T-54-01