Notes And Samples Of US - Libyan History During The Cold War
Colledted From The Foreign Relations Of The United States
By Holger Terp
30 March, 2011
Introduction: The Foreign Relations of the United States series presents the
official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy
decisions and significant diplomatic activity. The series, which is produced
by the State Department's Office of the Historian, began in 1861 and now
comprises more than 350 individual volumes. The volumes published over the
last two decades increasingly contain declassified records from all the
foreign affairs agencies.
173. National Security Council Report, Washington, June 29, 1957.
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955–1957, Volume XVIII, Africa,
1. The Kingdom of Libya is of strategic value to the United States by virtue
of its position athwart North Africa and Mediterranean communication lines
and even more because of the important military bases and operating rights
on Libyan territory. Libya is also important because of its potential effect
on the stability and orientation of the rest of North Africa.
2. Our military position in Libya derives from a Base Agreement which was
signed September 9, 1954, and which expires December 24, 1970 unless
renewed. U.S. military facilities in Libya include Wheelus Air Force Base
near Tripoli, gunnery and target ranges, and ancillary installations. There
are tentative plans for additional installations in Libya, including an air
base in Cyrenaica.
3. The King is the main source of power and the principal effective unifying
factor in Libya. A strong-minded Prime Minister, however, has considerable
latitude in exercising power and influence. 9 9. On May 26, Abd al-Majid Ku'bar
succeeded Bin Halim as Prime Minister. He was a former Speaker of the House,
Foreign Minister, Minister of Communications, and Deputy Prime Minister.
There are no political parties in Libya and political changes are of little
interest to the Libyan public. Strong divisive tendencies exist among the
three Federated Provinces 10 10. Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fazzan. which
could threaten the survival of a united Libya after the death of King Idris.
10. The Libyan Federal Army is overshadowed by the provincial police forces
(which total between 5,000 and 6,000 men). The Federal Government and the
King must rely primarily on these provincially-controlled police forces for
the maintenance of internal security. ...
18. Availability and use in Libya of such military facilities as the United
States may require.
19. A stable and independent Libyan Government able to withstand the
separatist tendencies of the provinces, free of anti-Western (particularly
Egyptian and Soviet) influence, pro-U.S. and pro-Western in orientation, and
giving support to Free World objectives.
3. U.S. Policy Toward Libya (NSC 5716/1; OCB Special Report on “Implications
of Petroleum Developments on U.S. Operations in Libya”, dated September 23,
1959; NSC Action No. 2139; NSC 5911/1; NIE 36.5–60; NSC 6004; Memo for NSC
from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated March 7, 1960)
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958–1960
Volume XIII, Arab-Israeli dispute; United Arab Republic; North Africa,
Secretary Anderson said this proposal was part of a fundamental issue. We
had always tried to maintain bases in foreign countries by producing in the
country where the base was located a favorable climate of opinion, which was
established largely by our aid programs. We were increasingly coming to
realize that [4½ lines of source text not declassified]. $100 million was to
be spent in Libya in the next year in connection with the development of the
oil resources. These expenditures plus military expenditures would have a
great inflationary effect in Libya. We had announced that we had a
balance-of-payments problem. We should ask other countries to help us in
that problem; and Britain was in a good position to do so with respect to
Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara, Status of Wheelus Air Base, Washington, March 25, 1964.
a. “What is US firm estimate of strategic value of Wheelus?”
(1) Training. Wheelus Air Base is critical to the requirements of the Air
Force for the maintenance of combat ready crew status for all fighter and
fighter interceptor crews assigned in the European area. The base is the
only facility in the area that provides important all year good weather,
gunnery and bombing ranges, and other facilities capable of accommodating
the large numbers of personnel to be trained. At any one time, there are
approximately 100 fighters and fighter interceptors scheduled for training
operations at the Weapons Training Center, Wheelus Air Base. Crews are
rotated every thirty days. This schedule permits each crew member an
opportunity to maintain his proficiency and to requalify himself every six
months. These are minimum air training requirements for combat crews. The
weather factor is important in that it permits dependable scheduling not
only at the Weapons Training Center, but also for the return of these crews
to their duty stations to assume their combat alert status. As long as
combat ready air forces remain on the European continent, a training
facility such as Wheelus will remain an essential requirement.
(2) Contingencies. Beyond its significance as a training site, the strategic
location of the base has even greater importance. It enhances the US
capability to support over 50 contingency plans relating to the Middle East,
North and South Africa, and the Indian Ocean area. The loss of Wheelus Air
Base would undoubtedly require revision of these plans with the attendant
likelihood of degradation of effective response. During our increase of
readiness for operations in the Lebanon crisis in 1958, Greece denied the
United States certain landing and overflight privileges. In these
circumstances, the availability of Wheelus was—and could again be—of major
(3) Cold War. As the location of the base is significant to the support of
US contingency plans, its location is equally important in support of cold
war activities. The air support furnished the United Nations during the
Congo emergency could not have been as effective and timely had Wheelus Air
Base not been available. US efforts would certainly have been more costly.
Were we called upon to provide support for the UN Peacekeeping Force now
active in Cyprus, Wheelus would be an important facility in assuring such
support. The emerging, volatile nations of Africa South of the Sahara are
potential trouble areas in which US interests may require involvement.
Wheelus Air Base remains the last US foothold of significance on the
Continent of Africa. The combination of US withdrawals elsewhere, the high
likelihood of continuing disturbances throughout the area, the strategic
interests of the United States, and the role we assume in UN operations
increase its strategic importance.
(4) Other Significant Uses. Other activities are conducted at Wheelus Air
Base. The storage of War Reserve matériel is directly related to the ability
of US forces to respond to contingencies since they make possible support of
continued operations in remote areas. In addition, the base, again because
of its location, serves effectively for strategic aircraft recovery.
Military Air Transport Service aircraft operate through Wheelus Air Base and
service areas in the Middle East and Africa. The base also includes an
important communications station of the Defense Communications System. In
addition, a number of important electronic detection devices to monitor
nuclear activities of the USSR and France are located and operated on the
94. Memorandum From the Director for Plans and Policy, Joint Staff (Johnson) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Hoopes)
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XXIV, Africa,
Document 94, Washington, November 14, 1967.
Contingency Planning for Relocation of Military Functions from Wheelus Air
The study recommends that:
a. Wheelus Air Base be retained.
b. In the event the Air Force is forced to withdraw from Wheelus Air Base,
the Weapons Training Center be relocated at Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, and
the other functions being performed at Wheelus Air Base be relocated as
outlined in individual sections of the study.
c. Preliminary negotiations with the Government of Spain not be undertaken
at this time. However, in renegotiation base rights with Spain (scheduled
for late 1968/early 1969), care should be exercised that the agreement does
not foreclose the option of future relocation at Zaragoza Air Base.
Memorandum From Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to
the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger),
Washington, August 9, 1972 (August 9, 1972)
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume E–5, Part 2,
Documents on North Africa, 1969–1972, Document 91.
The event which led to the present situation took place in mid-June when
Libyan oil negotiator and now Prime Minister JALLUD called in the heads of
the oil companies doing business in Libya and told them that their position
is jeopardized because of the US government policy of refusing to provide
arms to Libya. He exaggerated in describing Libya requests to the US which
he said had been turned down, but as you know there are still 8 F-5 aircraft
dating from a commitment made prior to Qadhafi's takeover which have never
been delivered. We agreed to sell them at a time when we were working with
the Libyan air force as a means of holding our position at Wheelus Airbase.
After the revolutionary command deposed King Idris, we held the remaining
eight aircraft under that contract “under review,” and that is still their
status. Another dimension of this problem for the future is that the Libyans
have ordered 8 C-130s through commercial channels for delivery next year,
and the issue of licensing them will come up at some point...
Holger Terp is the editor of the Danish Peace Academy
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