173. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5716/1


Note by the Executive Secretary to the National Security Council


  • A. Memos for NSC from Executive Secretary, same subject, dated April 12 and 26, and May 1, 19572
  • B. Memo for NSC from Executive Secretary, subject: “Report to the President on the Vice President’s Visit to Africa”; dated April 22, 1957
  • C. NSC Actions Nos. 1707 and 17403
  • D. SNIE 36.5–574
  • E. NSC 57165
  • F. Memo for NSC from Acting Executive Secretary, same subject, dated June 26, 19576

The National Security Council, the Under Secretary of the Treasury, and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, at the 328th Council meeting on June 26, 1957, adopted the statement of policy on the subject contained in NSC 5716, subject to the amendment thereto which is set forth in NSC Action No. 1740–c.

The President has this date approved the statement of policy in NSC 5716, as amended and adopted by the Council and enclosed herewith as NSC 5716/1; directs its implementation by all appropriate Executive departments and agencies of the U.S. Government; and designates the Operations Coordinating Board as the coordinating agency.

[Page 491]

A Financial Appendix and Annexes A through G are also enclosed for the information of the Council.7

James S. Lay, Jr.8



General Considerations

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.
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.
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 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 Provinces10 which could threaten the survival of a united Libya after the death of King Idris.
Libya’s pro-Western orientation is largely the result of the present King’s policy of friendship with the United Kingdom and the United States. Its pro-Western orientation is likely to continue as long as King Idris remains on the throne and as long as Libya is reasonably satisfied with Western support.
The U.K. has exercised considerable influence over the King and the Libyan Government, partly because of the U.K.’s willingness to meet Libya’s annual budget deficit. However, U.K. influence in Libya has steadily declined over the past several years. This decline will be accelerated by the U.K. decision to reduce its annual subsidy [Page 492] to Libya after March 31, 1958 and to withdraw most of its troops from Libya.
U.S. influence in Libya has grown steadily since 1951, and in recent months Libya has moved closer to the United States. The Government recently gave strong public support to the American Doctrine for the Middle East. Of the Western nations, probably only the United States can provide the leadership, resources and influence to assure Libya’s continued pro-Western orientation.
Egypt has, since 1951, continuously sought to bring Libya into the Egyptian orbit. By supplying advisers and officials to the Libyan federal and provincial Governments and teachers for the Libyan schools, and through the use of the Egyptian radio, movies and newspapers, Egypt has spread Egyptian propaganda and influence in Libya. The Egyptian Embassy has aggressively tried to extend Egyptian influence and, during the Suez crisis of late 1956, sought to foment disorders. The Libyan Government and the King have become fearful of Egyptian motives and have initiated steps to counteract Egyptian influence.
In 1945 the Soviet Union requested a trusteeship over Tripolitania and in 1956 a Soviet Embassy was established in Tripoli. Soviet offers of military and economic aid in 1956 were rejected by the Libyan Government after the United States extended additional aid to Libya. The Soviets collaborate closely with Egyptian Embassy officials in Libya and are reported to be assiduously cultivating junior Libyan officials. Direct Soviet influence has, however, remained slight and there is no known local Communist organization in Libya.
Libya has sought a closer relationship with Iraq and Turkey and has accepted modest assistance from these two countries in forming and training the Libyan Army. The Libyan Government wishes to strengthen Libya’s relations with its North African neighbors and it recently reiterated its strong support of the Algerian nationalists. Libya’s relations with most members of the Arab League are confined largely to contacts with them at the Arab League meetings and none except Egypt exerts much influence in Libya.
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. Transformation of the provincial police forces into a Federal force is desirable but not politically feasible. The Government and the King are anxious to increase the strength of the Libyan Army from 1835 to at least 5,000 men. If such an army had a strong national loyalty, it could provide the Federal Government with effective military backing, contribute significantly to the internal [Page 493] security and unity of Libya and offer some resistance to local aggression. However, some duplication in capability between the provincial and Federal forces would exist during the period of Federal force build-up and until the functions of the provincial forces are reduced.
Currently, the U.K. has primary responsibility for equipping and training the Libyan Army. The United States has undertaken, however, to train and equip a 1035-man augmentation of the Army and is considering assuming responsibility for training and supporting the entire Federal army.
Over 90 percent of Libya’s territory is desert and only about two percent is arable. Most of the population is engaged in nomadic animal husbandry or agriculture, and production is subject to wide fluctuation because of variations in rainfall. Most of the population lives at the subsistence level and suffers from malnutrition and disease. Unless new resource discoveries are made, the potentiality for economic growth is exceedingly limited.
Extensive oil explorations are currently being undertaken in Libya by a number of U.S. and foreign oil companies. If significant quantities of oil or gas were to be found and exploited commercially, Libya’s requirements for external subsidies would be reduced and a rising living standard could be financed.
Libya’s foreign trade deficit in 1956 was more than made up through U.S. and U.K. military expenditures, private foreign investment and foreign grants, and Libya’s holdings of dollars and sterling stood at $46 million at the end of 1956.
In Libyan FY 1956, the Libyan central and provincial governments received domestic revenues of roughly $17 million, and assistance primarily from the U.K. to meet the budget deficit totalled approximately $8 million. In addition foreign grants of $15 million were provided to Libya for development programs.
The U.K. has been the primary source of external support for Libya’s budget. It intends, however, to reduce its assistance to Libya from $12.6 million (Libyan FY 1958) to approximately $3.5 million a year beginning April 1, 1958 and has urged the United States to undertake to fill the gap thus created. We have indicated to the Libyan Government our willingness to review with it Libya’s economic and financial situation in the light of the British retrenchment and to consider Libya’s needs for additional U.S. assistance subject to the availability of funds and taking into account the contribution of the British Government.
It is unlikely that the U.K. will agree to augment its new aid level to Libya and Libya will look to the United States to fill the gap. The Libyans will almost certainly make continuing efforts to raise the price of their cooperation with the United States. Should [Page 494] U.S. aid proposals fall substantially below their expectations, they would probably seek to revive U.S. concern that Libya would turn to Egypt and the USSR, though they would probably not accept substantial assistance from these countries unless they concluded that U.S. aid would be wholly inadequate.


Availability and use in Libya of such military facilities as the United States may require.
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.

Major Policy Guidance

U.S. Assistance. Extend U.S. assistance to Libya at a minimum level which, taking into account the contributions of other friendly nations, will provide reasonable assurance of the retention of U.S. defense facilities in Libya and of the political cooperation of the Libyan Government.
Military Assistance. Take primary responsibility for developing over a period of years a Libyan army trained and equipped to maintain internal security and to resist guerrilla raids; and provide military assistance for this program additional to that provided by other friendly nations. Such an armed force should not exceed in size a U.S. regimental combat team (approximately 4,500 men). Concurrent with the expansion of the Federal Army, encourage the Libyans, as internal political considerations permit, to reduce the size of the provincial police forces to the level required for the efficient execution of normal police duties.
Economic and Technical Assistance. Within the over-all minimum level of U.S. economic and technical assistance programs:
Maintain a reasonable degree of economic stability.
Contribute toward economic development.
Assist in Libyan efforts to improve levels of technical competence in government, agriculture, teaching, health and other fields in order to facilitate the most effective use of Libya’s human and natural resources.
Facilitate, particularly through private enterprise, the exploration and exploitation of additional Libyan natural resources to lessen over time the extent of Libya’s dependence on foreign subsidies.
Contribute toward political unity.
Relations with North Africa and the Middle East.
Encourage Libya’s disposition to draw more closely politically, culturally and economically to Tunisia and Morocco, even though [Page 495] conditions in the area do not now permit practical steps toward some form of broader North African political association.
At the same time, encourage Libya to strengthen its ties with pro-Western countries of the Middle East (such as Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon), to lessen its ties with anti-Western and neutralist Middle Eastern states (particularly Egypt), and to minimize its involvement in divisive Middle East problems and disputes.
Survival of an Independent and Pro-Western Libya.
Encourage Libya to follow such policies and take such steps as will strengthen Libya’s independence, its national cohesiveness, and its cooperation with the Free World.
Be prepared to respond to a Libyan request for armed assistance under the American Doctrine for the Middle East and coordinate planning for such assistance with the U.K.’s plans for carrying out its obligations under the U.K.-Libyan Treaty of Alliance.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5716 Series. Secret.
  2. The April 12 and 26 memoranda are not printed. The May 1 memorandum transmitted a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the JCS dated April 30. The JCS concluded it was in the U.S. interest to assure the Libyan Government that the United States would consider additional U.S. assistance to Libya. (Ibid.)
  3. Regarding NSC Action No. 1707, see footnote 11, Document 170. NSC Action No. 1740, taken at the 328th Meeting of the National Security Council, June 26, deleted paragraph 23 from NSC 5716 and approved NSC 5716 as amended. Paragraph 23, to which the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff objected, concerned the construction of additional U.S. military facilities in Libya. (Memorandum of discussion, June 27; Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Discussions)
  4. Dated May 7 and entitled “US Prospects in Libya Over the Next Few Years”, not printed. (Department of State, INRNIE Files)
  5. Dated June 17, not printed. (Ibid., S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5716 Series)
  6. This memorandum from Gleason transmitted a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the JCS dated June 25, approving NSC 5716 provided paragraph 23 was deleted. (Ibid.)
  7. None printed.
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  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.
  10. Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fazzan.