As the end is nigh for Gadhafi, Washington steps back into the fold | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 23.08.2011

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As the end is nigh for Gadhafi, Washington steps back into the fold

Having taken a decidedly back seat in the military campaign against Libya's Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, the United States is now beginning to talk of its role in the Arab country's future.

Moammar Gadhafi

Post-Gadhafi Libya is an unwritten book

As the battle for Tripoli continues to rage, the rebels who are fighting to take control of the Libyan capital are talking about "the end of an era."

That sentiment is shared by members of the international community including US President Barack Obama, who issued a statement on Monday in which he said the future of the Libya was now "in the hands of its people."

"The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end," he said, and called on the embattled leader to prevent any further bloodshed by "explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight, to lay down their arms."

Furthermore, Obama warned against violent reprisals, and called for "an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya."

He insisted that America would be a "friend and partner" in the pursuit of that goal, and that his administration would provide necessary humanitarian supplies. What it is not prepared to do, however, is change its military stance toward North African country.

Military involvement?

US soldiers at work in Afghanistan

Washington says there will be no US troops to help keep the peace in Libya

In a press statement, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said it remained to be seen whether there would be some kind of transitional mission, and if so whether it would be a UN or NATO initiative.

"But we still do not plan any US forces going on the ground in Libya," he stressed.

Some analysts have warned that Washington should rethink its decision to keep American boots out of the Arab country, as after more than four decades of Gadhafi's iron-fisted rule, there is ample scope for the path to democracy to descend into the kind of chaos seen in post-Saddam Iraq.

Yet given the US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and given the fact that voters will go to the polls next year, it is seen as highly unlikely that Obama can be coerced into a change of tack.

Post-Gadhafi agenda

US President Barack Obama

Obama wants to be in the Libyan loop

So what exactly does the American president want for, and indeed from Libya now that the fighting appears to be drawing to a close?

Charles Gurdon, Managing Director of London-based political risk consultants Menas Consulting, told Deutsche Welle that Obama's aspirations for the North African country are much the same as those it has for Tunisia and Egypt.

"Washington wants to make sure that democracy takes hold and that there is no major tribal fighting, that radical Islam does not become a major force and has no effect as far as terrorism is concerned," Gurdon said.

He says it stands to reason that the US should want to become more involved in what is going on in Libya at this juncture.

"The US decided that it was a European battle and that Europe should take more responsibility for Libya since many more exports from Libya go to Europe," he said. "But now we are on the threshold of change, Libya will become more important for the US."

Not a matter of oil

A oil worker at a pipeline in Libya

Only two percent of US oil imports come from Libya

Gurdon rejects the idea that the new found American interest is motivated by the prospect of oil and gas, both of which Libya has in abundance. Not least because a number of US oil companies already have a presence there.

"Occidental, Marathon and ConocoPhilipps have been there since the 1960s, and in addition to that Exxon and Hess both have exploration projects in the country," the political consultant said. "Iraq is more important in new oil terms."

On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to rebel leaders and members of the international coalition about what kind of help Washington might provide.

Areas of support which have been mooted are political training and logistical and intelligence support for the Transitional National Council (TNC). There is also talk of unfreezing the $30-plus billion (21 billion euros) in Libyan assets in order to make them available for reconstruction efforts, which are likely to be led by the United Nations.

Author: Tamsin Walker
Editor: Rob Mudge

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