State Department officials say that the visit is critical to maintaining future relations with the nation’s fledgling government.
Just two months after Moammar Gadhafi was driven from Tripoli, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unannounced visit to Libya Tuesday to meet with leaders of the Transitional National Council as a show of support and encouragement for the fledgling government.
During Clinton’s five-hour visit to Libya, she engaged top TNC officials in a town hall-style meeting and announced an $11 million increase in non-military aid, bringing the U.S.’s total contributions to about $135 million since the beginning of the conflict with former Libyan leader Gadhafi. Clinton is also expected to pledge new medical aid for the country, which has an estimated 15,000 members of its population suffering from war-related injuries.
"This is Libya's moment. This is Libya's victory and the future belongs to you," Clinton said during talks with Transitional National Council Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and interim leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil. She added that "women have sacrificed" and should be full partners in the evolving Libyan society.
State Department officials have said that the visit is an important one that will set the stage for future U.S.-Libya relations.
“This trip is, first, to congratulate them on how far they’ve come, but also to start talking about how 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,” a senior State Department official told reporters traveling with Clinton.
As part of the new aid package, the U.S. will restart its Fulbright Program that was suspended because of the conflict. The English Access program that the U.S. had with underprivileged students before will be restarted as well. The U.S. will also help fund an archeological program that is a venture with Oberlin College and archeologists in Libya to map, document, and do risk assessments of the archeological sites in eastern Libya, including a UNESCO world heritage site.
Though this was not on the agenda, there is still the question of nearly 2,500 detainees that Amnesty International says the TNC is holding captive in Tripoli without being allowed access to lawyers or judicial proceedings. The Human Rights group says that many of the prisons are being beaten and are subjected to other forms of ill treatment.
(Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AP Photo)