164. Letter From the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Gray)1

Dear Gordon: I wish to refer to Mr. McGuire’s letter of December 19, 1956 forwarding a copy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s memorandum of December 42 concerning United States military assistance for Libya.

This Department has given careful attention to the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs and is concerned about the political consequences of this Government acting on the basis of recommendation 4.c. “that an early agreement be reached with the United Kingdom which would provide that …3 the United States progressively relieve the United Kingdom of all responsibility for equipping and training the Libyan Army”. As you know, the British make a considerable contribution to the Libyan economy and budget and extend equipment and training assistance to the Libyan Army. They also maintain a number of defense facilities within Libya and have a treaty of alliance with that country. While it is quite clear that the British position in Libya has deteriorated as a result of recent events in the Middle East, the extent of that deterioration is by no means certain and the possibility would still appear to exist that they can maintain a position of influence which will serve our interests in the area provided they pursue policies and programs designed to rehabilitate their position. From a political point of view, we continue to attach importance to the British position in Libya, both in terms of the financial and other contributions they make to that country and of the added strength which they are capable of providing the Western position in this part of the world.

In the light of these considerations, we feel that it would be politically unwise for this Government to take any initiative to assume any major British responsibilities in Libya unless it becomes clear that the British are unwilling or unable to discharge those responsibilities in a manner compatible with our own and other Western interests. The talks in London will provide us with the opportunity to ascertain British intentions and thereby place us in a position better to assess their capabilities for carrying out their policies and progress. We believe it important politically that we [Page 464] utilize this opportunity to urge them to discharge their responsibilities. Should it develop, however, that they are either unwilling or unable to do so, we shall then face the decision as to which of their obligations and responsibilities we may have to assume, including that of the Libyan Army.

Because of these uncertainties in the British position and of the political importance of being in a position rapidly to implement our military assistance commitment to the Libyans, this Department, however, believes that we should assume a partial responsibility at this time for the Libyan Army. We therefore concur in recommendation 4.a. of the Joint Chiefs that the 1035 man increase in the Libyan Army should be equipped with U.S. material. With respect to recommendation 4.b. that the United States assume responsibility for training the 1035 men, this Department also concurs but feels that this should, at least for the present, be implemented in such a way as to minimize conflict with existing British training responsibilities. In conversations between our two Departments, we have suggested that this might be solved by the United States confining its training responsibilities to instruction in the use of U.S. equipment furnished under the program, but leaving tactical instruction of the 1035 men to the British training mission. I hope that the Department of Defense can give urgent consideration to this suggestion as a basis for reaching an understanding with the British on our respective training responsibilities.

I recognize that the foregoing views of this Department are at variance with the views of the Joint Chiefs that the establishment of a Military Assistance Program for Libya with divided training and advisory responsibilities between the U.S. and UK is unsound from a military point of view. From a political point of view, however, such an arrangement would appear as the only practical alternative.

This Department has also noted the views of the Joint Chiefs that no requirement exists at this time for a Libyan Air Force or a Libyan airborne unit. While recognizing the military judgment of the Joint Chiefs on this point and while also agreeing on the undesirability of such units from the point of view of the Libyan economy, we nevertheless wish to reserve our position on this matter in the light of a possible overriding political requirement for such assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Murphy4
  1. Source: Department of State, AF/AFI Files: Lot 62 D 406, Miscellaneous. Secret. Drafted by Palmer and attached to a memorandum from Rountree to Murphy dated January 5.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 162.
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.