51. Telegram 169 From the Embassy in Libya to the Departments of State and Defense1 2


  • Future USG Military Programs


  • State 7024 (Notal)
I was informed by FonOff yesterday morning that an appointment for me with Qadhaafi and Bwaysiir had been arranged for 1315 same day. As Dept aware, I already had separate pending requests to see Jalluud on military relationship problems and Bwaysiir on most recent expulsion case and other matters. I therefore assumed that meeting probably grew out of these requests. However, it became clear on arrival that this was Qadhaafi’s initiative and related primarily to F–5 program. General atmosphere was cordial but meeting less than satisfactory in that Qadhaafi obviously unprepared on various subjects I raised and also pressed for time, receiving me late and with other appointments waiting for him. Nevertheless, I believe we succeeded in laying some basic problems out on table and receiving some indications of LARG views that may be useful.
After opening pleasantries, Qadhaafi asked me how evacuation [Page 2] proceeding. I gave brief rundown and expressed appreciation for LARG cooperation we receiving. Qadhaafi expressed pleasure and then raised matter of scheduled delivery of eight F–5’s, stating that US refusal to provide LARAF with ammunition from stocks at Wheelus was an obstacle to completion of this deal. Military aircraft without ammunition useless.
I replied that there was obviously a misunderstanding re US position on this matter. I then carefully explained to him, as we have with numerous other LARG officials, status of WRM and reasons why we could not deplete it, at same time, I made clear to him that USG continues to be ready to consider request for ammunition through MAAG channels. In fact, MAAG has been waiting some months for LARAF’s normal requests but these have not been forthcoming. We have not said that we will not honor requests for ammunition; we have merely said that such requests must be made through normal channels for supply from normal supply sources.
I continued by emphasizing need to clarify LARG’s thinking re future of US-Libyan relationship in military field,pointing out that, among other considerations, present USG support for LARAF is largely based on existence of Wheelus. Departure of Blue Suiters will require new arrangements which should be made quickly. LARG should be fully aware of this so that it can take necessary steps. I then explained role of NORAIR in providing flight line maintenance for F–5’s including fact that contract assumes availability of certain support functions now supplied by Wheelus and will have to be revised if LARG intends retain NORAIR. If this case, LARG might also wish consider extending contract to cover other services presently provided by USAF.
Turning to MAAG, I raised question of army section, emphasizing that since September 1 it has scarcely been utilized. This would appear to place in doubt its future usefulness, but we wish clarify LARG thinking on this question. AF section by contrast continues to work with LARAF but we also need to know LARG’s views re its future under new relationship which must be worked out.
Qadhaafi acknowledged services being provided by AF section [Page 3] and expressed desire to continue such cooperation. These functions would continue as usual until evacuation completed. Thereafter, foundations for new relation could be laid. So long as US aircraft in use, it would be necessary to have assistance of American expertise.
Reverting to ammo question, Qadhaafi stressed that any country providing weapons assistance has responsibility to supply ammo. He said COS had reported to him that US authorities had predicted that response to request through MAAG for ammo might take up to a year. This was astonishing. Ordinary requests for ammo and spare parts must be met on an urgent basis.
I said once again that Qadhaafi’s information seemed to be based on misunderstanding. Response to requests for ammo would certainly be forthcoming in much shorter period of time than one year. Naturally, however, lead time would be required for purchases. There was really no problem in obtaining necessary decision if LARAF will sit down with MAAG to discuss matter. Such working level contacts now taking place and hopefully matter will soon be resolved.
Reverting to question of F–5’s, I asked Qadhaafi whether I would re correct in describing his position as follows, qte that LARG continues td desire purchase eight additional F–5’s if it can receive ammo and spare parts unqte. Qadhaafi replied cite we will buy the aircraft if we are guaranteed availability of ammo and spare parts without complication and delay unqte.
I then reverted to Qadhaafi’s assumptions that USG support for LARAF would continue until completion of evacuation and that new arrangements could await that date. I stressed this was impossible and if LARG waits until June 30 to make new support arrangements, LARAF will re grounded. Qadhaafi said he recognized need for continued American help and would consult with LARAF authorities. I informed him that NORAIR representatives are now in libya and could be contacted, Qadhaafi made written note of this and indicated their presence here at this time is very helpful.
I then turned to question of CONUS training emphasizing need, as in cases ammo and spare parts, for forward planning. Training spaces must be reserved many months in advance and in past it has been necessary disappoint LARAF when it requested training on very short notice. At present time we unaware whether LARAF interest in CONUS training for seven pilots [Page 5] and 300 ground personnel represents an official request. Qadhaafi obviously uninformed but indicated that LARG recognizes need for such training and that he would look into matter with LARAF. I emphasized importance clarifying this matter promptly in interests all concerned.
Reverting to ARSEC I again sought Qadhaafi’s views re its future. He replied that since most of army’s weapons are British, ARSEC has no real function. I replied that ARSEC has been working mostly in fields of communications and maintenance. Qadhaafi seemed surprised and indicated his understanding that communications work was under private contract. I confirmed that whereas this was also true, ARSEC had been quite separately and independently involved in other sections of the communications field. Qadhaafi said he would look into this matter and let me know LARG’s further views.
It obvious at this point Qadhaafi feeling very much pressed by his schedule. I nevertheless pushed ahead with matter of Matratiin which is subject of separate telegram.
Comment: Foregoing obviously not clear-cut in clarifying LARG’s thinking re longer term relationship. Question of French involvevent LARAF was never explicitly addressed by either Qadhaafi or myself. He obviously did not want to get into this question and I avoided it because it would have opened up whole area of complications and possible controversy which would have negated any prospects of addressing issues we did discuss.
My impression is that Qadhaafi had made up his mind against continuation F–5 deal and that his accusations about USG unwillingness to supply ammunition were effort to lay ground work for cancellation of program. I do not believe it is in our overall interest here that we should provide this sort of pretext. If Libyans wish cancel arrangements, I would much prefer that it be for their own reasons and that onus not be shifted onto us. Hence my efforts to make clear that MAAG channels continue to be open to them.
FonOff has just conveyed Qadhaafi request that I call [Page 6] on him again at 2000 local at Azizia barracks. No indication given re subject but it may involve futher discussion above points since COS was waiting to see Qadhaafi when I left his office yesterday. It is also of interest that local press has not reported fact that I called on Qadhaafi yesterday.
Country team further views re future military relationships will follow within next few days.
We would have no objection if Department desires downgrade reftel and this reply from Exdis to Limdis.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 LIBYA. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to USCINCEUR, CINCUSAFE, 16TH AF TORREJON, WHEELUS AB, Benghazi, London, and Paris. The reftel is telegram 7024 to Tripoli, January 15. (Ibid.) In telegram 12659 to Tripoli, January 27, the Department instructed the Embassy to avoid the implication that Libya’s request for ammunition would be received routinely or favorably. (Ibid.)
  2. In this 6 page telegram, Ambassador Joseph Palmer recounted his January 25 conversation with Prime Minister Mu’ammar al-Qadhaafi, in which Qadhaafi aired his views on the future of the U.S. military programs in Libya and Palmer tried to clarify some points of contention.