Four weeks after the Libyan people rose up against 40 years of Gaddafirepression, the gains remain fragile. We are deeply grateful for the help that President Obama and the American people have provided. Airstrikes and humanitarian aid certainly averted an early catastrophe.
Let us be clear what this battle is about: We are fighting extremism and terrorism, and we are fighting for freedom and self-determination. After 40 years, we have no interest in trading one kind of terrorist for another. We want the same rights as any free people: the freedom to select our leaders, the freedom to speak our minds, the freedom to live without fear. We have no tolerance for al-Qaeda or any other group that acts contrary to these goals.
But we need help. With a brutal counterattack underway, the opposition to Moammar Gaddafi needs more help — quickly — to protect civilian lives and preserve the foothold of a free Libya. We are appealing to the United States and the international community to do the following:
l Sustain the no-fly zone and air campaign. The United States and allied airstrikes stopped Gaddafi’sforces this week. Maintaining the tempo now will be crucial in blunting the counterattack.
l Enhance military assistance. It is up to the Libyan people to remove Gaddafi, but the international community must help even the fight. The allied air campaign has made a real difference, but victory will be determined on the ground. We need better arms and the training to use them. We understand that arms must be used responsibly, and we invite international oversight and control to help us protect against arms finding their way into unfriendly hands.
l Increase humanitarian aid. Food, water, medical supplies and fuel are in short supply. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced across Libya. The international community has responded rapidly, but more needs to be done.
l Free up frozen assets of the Gaddafi regime. We deeply appreciate all that America has done and we are reluctant to ask for more. Fortunately, Libya is a country with resources. The United States and other governments have frozen more than $50 billion in Gaddafi assets. This is money that the corrupt Gaddafishave stolen from the Libyan people. Immediate access to at least some of these assets can help pay for critical humanitarian relief and for military equipment.
l Recognize the transitional council. The opposition leadership shares a common goal of bringing freedom to Libya. We represent a responsible cross-section of Libyan society: doctors; lawyers; former military officers and diplomats; students and business people. Many of us have been educated and have lived in the United States and in Europe. We are eager to properly introduce our leadership to earn the trust of the United States and the international community. The London conference helped to put a face to the opposition and its plans. We hope that further diplomatic engagement over the next week will persuade the United States and others to move forward with recognition.
We have a long and difficult road ahead. Putting decades of repression behind us and building democratic institutions and a civil society will not happen overnight. The transitional council seeks to establish the building blocks of a free and open society. In the spirit of America’s founders, we will create a constitution. We will create a governing body that represents all Libyans. We will create a judicial system. We will create a free press. And we will ensure the delivery of basic services, such as health care, schools, roads and water.
But before we can turn in earnest to the important work of peace, we need to finish the ugly business of war. We are literally fighting for our lives. All of our aspirations will mean little unless we get the help we need now.
Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali is the official representative to the United States of the Transitional National Council of the Libyan Republic and the former Libyan ambassador to the United States.