Congress took a significant step towards recognizing the urgency of US engagement in Libya when Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen convened an HFAC Sub-committee hearing on April 18, 'Libya Fractured: The Struggle for Unity.' NCUSLR Board Member, Ambassador Ali Aujali attended the hearing on behalf of the Council.
Though the hearing featured three witnesses (Christopher Blanchard of Congressional Research Service; Fred Wehrey of Carnegie Endowment, Alice Hunt Friend of CSIS), it was Chairperson Ros-Lehtinen's opening statement that was most significant. Lehtinen chairs the HFAC Sub-committee on Middle East and North Africa and formerly chaired the full House Foreign Affairs Sub-committee, so her remarks on Libya carry weight:
"Libya’s instability is a major problem for U.S. interests and we need a concerted effort from this administration to make it a priority."
"[Libya] is a problem that is not going away, and is only going to get worse for the region, for Europe, for U.S. interests if it is not addressed."
Ros-Lehtinen urged the Administration to take three specific steps -- appoint a new US Ambassador, re-opening the Embassy in Tripoli (as security conditions permit), and filling the vacant Special Envoy post as soon as possible. Still, it was the Chairwoman's appeal for US leadership that was most striking:
"More than anything – more than military aid, more than financial aid – Libya needs U.S. leadership; leadership that can corral the various countries interfering in Libya, leverage our connections, and help push the political reconciliation process forward."
Congressman Ted Deutch, the ranking member of the Sub-committee, also voiced his own serious concerns about the situation in Libya and interest in a "coherent US policy" toward the country. Noting the array of threats to US interests emanating from Libya, including its attraction to Russia, Congressman Deutch counseled against "personalizing" the country's problems and urged focus on building "good, honest, comprehensive governance."
Congresswoman Ros-Lethinen's witten statement can be found here.
The Sub-committe hearing can be seen here, including the opening statements by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Deutch, along with links to witness written testimony. (Hearing begins at approximately 20 minutes into the video.)