The Pentagon and the State Department are asking Congress to approve millions of dollars in counterterrorism aid for Libya, a request prepared prior to Tuesday's killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members.
The $11.8 million proposal would develop Libyan special operations forces to fight armed extremists. It would also bolster the country's border security to counter the illicit trafficking of weapons. The effort is part of a broader $44.8 million plan to provide security assistance to multiple countries -- investments that would mark the first use of the Global Security Contingency Fund authorized by Congress last year.
The State Department formally notified Congress of the security assistance plans Sept. 4. The Defense Department sent lawmakers a related notification Aug. 24. Inside the Pentagon reviewed the documents, which also call for counterterrorism aid to the Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The Global Security Contingency Fund is designed to quickly meet urgent needs worldwide.
"DOD can allocate up to $200 million, while State at least $50 million," Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said in a recent speech. "When a crisis erupts or an opportunity presents itself, we will no longer be starting from scratch, arguing in the interagency over who has what authority and who has what capability. We will simply be able to get started."
U.S. officials want to spend $7.8 million to train and equip Libya's special operations forces to "counter and defeat terrorist and violent extremist organizations," according to the documents.
This money, most of which would come from DOD, would be used within a year to help build the capability and capacity of Libya's elite fighters to conduct special operations missions, including counterterrorism operations to fight al Qaeda and its affiliates, the proposal states.
The effort would focus on training to develop Libyan special operations forces, furthering engagement between these fighters and elite U.S. troops and "enhancing Libya's ability to combat and defend against threats from al Qaeda and its affiliates," the State Department writes, noting funds may also be used to buy equipment or acquire appropriate training.
"One of the current U.S. policy objectives in Libya is to promote peace and security through engagement with and training of security forces that protect Libya from external threats and terrorist organizations, while encouraging increased professionalism and respect for human rights, and expanding military-to-military engagement," the State Department writes.
Also included in the proposal is $4 million in State Department funds to improve Libya's border security over three years. "It is critical that the new Government of Libya quickly establish competent security institutions to combat terrorism and address the potential proliferation of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction and their components, particularly through effective border security," the department writes. "The interim government is attempting to control its land, air and maritime borders, but is challenged by minimal customs and border patrol staff, an inexperienced justice system, and security institutions with limited trained forces. The Libyan government lacks the capacity and expertise to effectively improve border security along its long, porous borders."
The funding would be used to build "an effective, cross-ministerial border security management capability, with a primary focus on land borders," the proposal states, noting plans would incorporate cross-border training and cooperation with neighboring countries to improve border management.
The effort would focus on conducting border assessments, boosting the security of land and maritime borders, synchronizing border management between Libya and its neighbors, establishing clear delineation of border-related
responsibilities between ministries, supporting the development of special capabilities within those ministries and possibly acquiring equipment and training, the proposal states.
President Obama strongly condemned the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. He directed increased security at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. Obama also stressed the attack would not sever the bond between the United States and the new Libyan government.
"Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans," Obama said. "Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens' body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) blamed the fatal attack on the White House. "If history has taught us anything, it is that weakness is provocative," McKeon said. "Again and again under President Obama we have met threats and thugs with apologies and concessions. Unsurprisingly, these mobs aren't satisfied with apologies anymore, they have clearly been escalating the offensive in the war of ideas for some time. Is it any wonder that events spun out of control and that American lives were lost?"
"It's easy for a lot of people to forget that our diplomats are on the frontlines of the world's most dangerous places and they're there trying to make the world safer at great risk to themselves and their families," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen John Kerry (D-MA). "This is one of those moments when Americans must unite as Americans. It is exactly the wrong time to throw political punches." -- Christopher J. Castelli