The Cable

State Department (website) recognizes new Libyan government

Following our Thursday report that the State Department website still had Muammar al-Qaddafi listed as the ruler of Libya, today the crack web team in Foggy Bottom updated its site to reflect that the Libyan revolution did in fact succeed.

The new note updates the name of the country from the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" to "Libya," noted the date of the revolution as Feb. 17, 2011, displays the flag of the new Libya, and recognizes Libya's interim Transitional National Council as the official government. Interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib is in Washington this week and met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Drawing from the local opposition councils which formed the backbone of the "February 17" revolution, the Libyan opposition announced the formation of a Transitional National Council (TNC) on February 27, 2011. The Council stated its desire to remove Qadhafi from power and establish a unified, democratic, and free Libya that respects universal human rights principles," the website now reads. "On October 23, 2011, 3 days after Qadhafi's death, the TNC officially declared Libya liberated."

Now that's what we call change you can believe in!

At an event Friday morning at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Keib spoke about the sacrifices of the Libyan people during their struggle against the Qaddafi regime and the atrocities that Qaddafi's forces committed during the revolution.

"I am not sure if I should say this, but you need to know that many of our young men and women were raped, and for others, reproductive organs were literally cut off," he said. "As the revolution was entering its second month, things were looking painfully grim, and we all held our breath. But courage, resolve and the decisive point of no return was reached, and this turned events around. You, the international community, chose not to sit quiet and watch as we were being massacred."

He also defended his government's handling of the transition period, which has faced criticism due to the failure to reign in militias, the lag in restoring government services in Tripoli, and the slow progress of rebuilding the Libyan economic sector.

"There are some who chose to dwell today on our challenges, on our differences and on our mistakes. I have no problem with that. But I believe that in so doing, they lack both perspective and an understanding of history and of the human spirit in Libya," said Keib. "And we have all the institutions of the state to rebuild from scratch, a huge challenge but a truly exciting one."

He also defended the new Libyan law that reintroduces polygamy as an acceptable practice.

"How many of us have a wife and more than one without being wife? You know, many of us, unfortunately, do that," he said. "But in Libya, I guarantee you, this is not going to be something of a problem, and I don't think this is something that people want to do. I don't know how it came out, but don't worry about it, OK? It's not going to be a problem. I guarantee you this."

The Cable

Graham back on board with Afghanistan mission

What a difference a few days make. After warning earlier this week that he was about to "pull the plug" on his support for the Afghanistan war, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is back on board with the mission following a new agreement on detainees.

Officials in Kabul announced Friday that the United States had agreed to gradually hand over control of most Afghan detainees in its custody over the next six months, representing a compromise between the Afghan demand that they be handed over now and the American refusal to hand them over at all. The issue became especially sensitive after the U.S. military admitted burning dozens of Qurans at the Parwan Detention Facility on Bagram Air Force Base late last month.

Graham traveled to Kabul recently and met with President Hamid Karzai to discuss the progress (or lack thereof) in negotiating a U.S.-Afghanistan Status of Forces Agreement that would provide the legal framework for the 20,000 U.S. troops expected to remain in Afghanistan past 2014, the deadline by which President Barack Obama has said full control of Afghanistan will be handed back to the Afghans.

On March 6, Graham told The Cable that if Karzai didn't budge on his demands for the immediate handover of all prisoners and the immediate cessation of night raids against the Taliban, he would "pull the plug" on his support for the whole war.

"If he insists that all the prisoners have to be turned over by March 9 and that we have to stop night raids, that means we will fail in Afghanistan and that means Lindsey Graham pulls the plug. It means that I no longer believe we can win and we might as well get out of there sooner rather than later," Graham said.

On Friday, in response to the announcement of the detainee deal, Graham issued a new statement expressing optimism that the issues between the United States and Karzai's government could be worked out.

"Today's agreement regarding detainees begins to clear the path for a broader strategic partnership agreement between our two nations which will be the biggest accomplishment to secure Afghanistan in over a decade.  The remaining issue left to be dealt with is the issue of night raids with Afghans in the lead, a vitally important military tactic which must be preserved," Graham said. "This has been an emotional and contentious topic for all concerned."

He explained that the agreement creates a "double-key veto system" that would allow either the Americans or the Afghans to object to the release of any detainee believed to be a threat to coalitions forces. Also the Afghans have changed their law to allow for "administrative detention" of suspected insurgents without having to go through the Afghan criminal justice systems.

"The adoption of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention, allowing for nations facing an insurgency to detain individuals as a security threat, rather than a common criminal, is a major breakthrough in the war effort.  It creates a lane of detention under Afghan law specifically designed to deal with the insurgent threat," Graham said. "As previously mentioned, this begins to clear the way for a broader strategic partnership between our two nations."

But if Karzai really wants to complete an agreement with the United States that has Graham's support, he's going to have to tackle the night raids issue sooner or later.

"With a rational agreement allowing for US captures to Afghan control, combined with an agreement that will continue night raids, we could be on the verge of reaching a turning point in the war - a strategic partnership agreement - that will allow us to reduce our military presence post-2014," Graham said. "This is an outcome that we have been fighting for and tremendously enhances our nation's national security."