The United States has trained the Libyan military in recent years and American manufacturers have sold the Gadhafi regime military equipment, putting the U.S. in the strange situation of bombing a foreign force that it helped build up.
The extent and nature of all the training is not clear, but State Department figures show that the sale of millions of dollars worth of aircraft parts to Libya was approved in recent years -- ironic, in hindsight, given the current focus on Gadhafi's air force. The cooperation highlights how quickly America's Libya policy has shifted as well as the sheer reach of U.S. military training programs. In fiscal 2009, the U.S. spent at least $536 million on training military personnel from 159 countries.
The backdrop for the cooperation between the American and Libyan militaries was improving relations between the two countries generally, following the announcement in 2003 by President Bush that Moammar Gadhafi had agreed to give up "weapons of mass destruction" programs. When John McCain visited Tripoli in the summer of 2009, Gadhafi's son Muatassim pressed a receptive McCain on getting military supplies. McCain, according to a diplomatic cable describing the meeting, spoke of the cooperation between the two militaries:
"[McCain] encouraged Muatassim to keep in mind the long-term perspective of bilateral security engagement and to remember that small obstacles will emerge from time to time that can be overcome," the cable says. "He described the bilateral military relationship as strong and pointed to Libyan officer training at U.S. Command, Staff, and War colleges as some of the best programs for Libyan military participation."