Libya-US Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with Libya following the UN-supported declaration of independence in 1951. The U.S. has strategic interests in a stable Libya, and has continued to reaffirm support for a free, democratic Libya that is an active member of the international community.

Since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the U.S. has focused on supporting capacity building efforts within Libya’s government institutions, developing civil society and facilitating free and fair elections. All U.S. projects are coordinated with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The U.S. provides targeted assistance to Libya to help strengthen national security institutions, which protect civilians, contribute to regional stability, and wrest control of weapons and land from militias.

Many of the world’s U.S. based major oil companies are invested and have operations in Libya. The U.S. also has a trade and investment framework agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which Libya is a member.

Deborah K. Jones is the current U.S. Ambassador in Libya.




The U.S. was an original supporter of the 1949 UN resolution that provided for Libya’s independence. Libya’s first and only king, King Idris I, was chosen to lead Libya under a post-WWII Constitution that instated the country as a monarchy, the drafting of which was overseen by the UN. During King Idris’s rule, the U.S. and the Kingdom of Libya kept close diplomatic ties. In 1954, Libya and the U.S. established embassies in each other’s countries and exchanged ambassadors. King Idris granted the U.S. rights to maintain military bases in Libya.


Increasing tensions led to the withdrawal of the U.S. ambassador in 1972. Staff members were withdrawn in 1979 after an attack on the embassy and the mission was closed.


During the “Arab Spring” in 2011, the Libyan people rose up against Gaddafi to which he responded with brutal force against his own people. The U.S. quickly severed relations with his government. A coalition of military forces, led by the United States, expressed deep concern over the welfare of Libya’s civilians and intervened in the civil war with an air campaign; after which the U.S. announced it was providing over $80 million in humanitarian assistance.

By August 2011, anti-Gaddafi forces captured Tripoli, and in October, Gaddafi was captured near Sirte and killed.

However unrest in the nation continues, directly impacting the U.S. Libyan relationship, with the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens during a terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

The U.S. has suspended embassy operations in Tripoli and relocated to Tunisia.