169. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Libya1

742. Department has concluded its discussions with UK on Libya which began April 22 and ended this morning. As we were not in position give UK definite assurance US would assist Libya in new situation or assume primary responsibility for training and equipping Libyan army, no substantive decisions were taken at meeting.2 (Instructions to Ambassador contained separate telegram.)3

Following is brief summary of talks relating to Libya:

British told us Selwyn Lloyd planned see Libyan Ambassador April 25 and felt obliged inform him in general terms UK plans reduce subsidy and withdraw troops.4 Lloyd hoped be able say UK [Page 480] had explained situation to US and was hopeful US would assist in situation which would be created. UK felt it important Libyans not be given impression UK was abandoning Libya without some assurance that West would see that Libya did not suffer. We emphasized UK could not commit us in this respect. British said they believed it no longer necessary retain large number UK troops Libya either for protection Libya or for UK strategic considerations and UK planned reduce ground forces level in Libya to 2,000 by end March 1958. Where these would be stationed depended partially on views US and Libyan Governments, altho HMG inclined prefer Tripoli area in view greater amenities with small detachment vicinity Tobruk. British confirmed that contemplated future contribution to Libya of £1.25 million could be used at least partially for budget support and UK would consider US request that all this amount go to budget support. At our suggestion, UK also agreed consider possibility UK continuing present level its subsidy through end June 1958 and would keep door open for increasing their contribution later if their circumstances should permit.

We explained US did not consider reduced level UK troops would constitute major factor in protection US facilities Libya although we thought they had deterring effect against invasion or internal insurrection. While we inclined believe advantages in concentrating remaining UK troops in Cyrenaica, we did not believe it appropriate for us to advise British in this matter. (Embassy’s comments on question troop disposition would be appreciated.) British said they did not wish tell Libyans they had discussed troop level or dispositions with US as these points would be negotiated with Libyans along with level of subsidy. British stated they intend honor their commitments under Libyan treaty but feel they could do so without stationing large number troops there.

We explained US still considering possibility assuming primary responsibility for training and equipping Libyan army but we could make no commitment this regard now. If we eventually decide do so we would propose work out with UK schedule for phasing out UK training mission and allied responsibilities. We confirmed that Ambassador Richards had agreed undertake study Libya’s military and police requirements.

British confirmed they willing US assume primary responsibility for Libyan army and said that UK willing retain UK training mission for reasonable period if we desired during transition. In response our inquiry, British said UK had agreed last June take note Libya’s desire to expand army and UK had agreed give assistance by providing equipment for an expansion. UK hopes US would be able assume this commitment. Although level of 5000 mentioned in discussions with Libyans UK in no sense committed this figure. British said [Page 481] Libyans had already recruited 600 of 1,000 man increase which US agreed equip and these were now in British uniforms and awaiting arrival US equipment. British reiterated that if US intends supply US equipment there would be period when Libyan army would be operating with two types equipment; this posed certain problems. There would also be problems operating two training missions but UK would agree continue its mission so long as US thought it useful. We told British these problems could be worked out on spot after our MAAG Mission arrived Libya. We reminded them that our MA Agreement not yet signed but expected signature near future. We thought some equipment could arrive Libya about 60 days after signature. British offered leave some Arabic speaking personnel in British training mission for reasonable time if we desired to assist in training Libyans. UK felt language problem particularly difficult and added that Iraqis serving in Libyan army are not popular with Libyans and not of much use except for translation purposes. We said MAAG Mission could best decide these questions. We added it our feeling that phase-out British mission might take 1 or 2 years.

We reiterated US does not contemplate OSP for Libyan army if US assumes primary responsibility although it might be useful do so initially.

All of foregoing conversations took place within clear context US consideration problem not completed and US representatives not authorized assume any commitments.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.41/4–2557. Secret. Repeated to London.
  2. At the Bermuda Conference on March 25, Lloyd and Dulles had briefly discussed Libya. Lloyd described the matter as being urgent and they agreed that further talks would be necessary. (Memorandum of conversation by Wilkins, March 25; ibid., Conference Files; Lot 62 D 181, CF 861, Bermuda 1957 Memos of Con. (MP)) On April 2, Lloyd informed the Libyan Ambassador to the United Kingdom of British intention to reduce its military forces there and cut down its economic subsidy. (Memorandum of conversation by Mak, April 6; ibid., Central Files, 741.56373/4–657) The Libyan matter was pursued once again in Washington between April 22 and April 25. The U.S. Delegation was led by Joseph Palmer and the British contingent by Adam Watson of the Foreign Office. The British First Secretary, J.R.A. Bottomley, also took up some final details with Palmer on April 26. (Memoranda of conversation by Mak, June 17–18; ibid., 773.5/4–2257)
  3. Telegram 738 to Tripoli, April 25, noted that further high-level consideration was required of the question whether the United States would assume British commitments in Libya. Tappin was told he might informally explore the matter with the Libyans. While he was not to make any pledges, he was free to emphasize the past record of U.S. assistance. (Ibid., 641.73/4–2557)
  4. Lloyd handed an aide-mémoire to the Libyan Ambassador on April 25 in which he expressed the expectation that the United States would assume the responsibilities the United Kingdom was giving up and also suggested that tripartite consultations with the United States would follow. Both Palmer and Bottomley agreed that the aide-mémoire went too far insofar as the United States had not yet decided to pick up the burden. (Ibid., 773.5/4–2257 and 4–2557)