The new commander of U.S. Africa Command, General Stephen Townsend, traveled to Tunis, Tunisia on 26 August for meetings focused on U.S.-Tunisian bilateral security and on U.S. security interests in neighboring Libya.
With respect to Libya, Townsend, accompanied by the new U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, met in Tunis with Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya. The introductory meeting served as an opportunity to build new relationships and assess the situation in Libya, AFRICOM said. Topics of discussion included the security environment, the importance of addressing the existing violent extremist organization threat, and the need to resolve the conflict in Libya.
“We emphasized to Prime Minister Sarraj the importance of supporting a diplomatic solution to put an end to the current conflict,” said Townsend. To further this point, Townsend and Norland will later meet with Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan Salame. Townsend will discuss ways the U.S. military might continue to cooperate with the UN in support of a political settlement in Libya. “We are committed to open and transparent dialogue on this urgent security issue,” said Townsend. “We fully support the United Nations, U.S. State Department and the Libya External Office’s efforts to promote stability and shared prosperity in Libya.”
Given the existing conflict in Libya, Townsend noted the importance of ensuring the violent extremist organization threat is contained and does not create additional instability in Libya and the region. “It is important to ensure violent extremist organizations do not feel they can use circumstances in Libya to create chaos and further their objectives,” said Townsend.
“This was a mutual area of interest and point of discussion during our meetings. Close cooperation is important to address the VEO threat.” AFRICOM continues to support diplomatic efforts to stabilize the political situation in Libya and disrupt terrorist organizations that threaten regional stability. While AFRICOM personnel are not currently located in Libya, the command continues to monitor conditions in Libya and assess the feasibility for a renewed U.S. military presence once the security environment permits doing so. “I am grateful to AFRICOM for all the assistance they have provided in the past in support of American diplomacy in Libya, and I hope conditions will eventually enable AFRICOM to return,” said Norland.