US charge d’affaires Stephanie Williams (C) and commander of US forces in Africa, Thomas Waldhauser (1st-L), with GNA foreign ministry undersecretary Lutfi al-Maghrabi (2nd-R) and chief of staff Abdul Rahman Al Taweel (1st-R) on May 31, 2018. By STRINGER (AFP)
Libya’s UN-backed government called for “further cooperation” with the US on Thursday, after meeting an American delegation in the capital Tripoli.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and his top team met with US charge d’affaires Stephanie Williams and Thomas Waldhauser, commander of US forces in Africa.
During the meeting the Libyan side said it wanted to expand economic and development cooperation with Washington, according to a Facebook statement by Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
Violence and chaos have dogged Libya since the NATO-backed armed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
It also claimed the lives of US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans when their consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi was attacked in 2012.
Since the uprising, the United States has spent $635 million supporting the country, according to Williams.
“Over the last year, the United States has increased bilateral assistance to Libya to improve airport security, border security, policing, prison management, and demining capacity,” the US envoy said in a statement.
The bilateral meeting came days after Sarraj travelled to Paris to meet with three other Libyan leaders, agreeing to unify parallel institutions and hold elections in December.
Libya continues to be divided by the rival powers, and Williams said US support alone would not solve the country’s problems.
“The only lasting solution for Libya is to overcome its political impasse,” she said.
“The United States believes that elections should occur as soon as possible, but must be well prepared to avoid further instability,” Williams added.
Since Libya’s uprising numerous jihadist groups have been active in the country, including the Islamic State which in 2015 seized control of Sirte to the east of Tripoli.
The GNA retook the city the December 2016 with aerial support from the US army.
Waldhauser told the Tripoli meeting that “the hunt for terrorist goes on” in Libya, according to the Facebook post by his hosts.
“AFRICOM forces intercepts and pursues the gatherings of these terrorists, which they target in total coordination with the GNA,” he said, in reference to the US forces in Africa.
In late March a senior Al-Qaeda operative was killed in a US air strike in southern Libya, which officials said was coordinated with Sarraj’s government.