Qadhafi's Death Won't Mean End for U.S. Role in Libya

Through reports say Qadhafi is dead, the United States still has a role to play in Libya's transition.

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The United States has been entrenched in Libya since March 19, when the first airstrikes against Col. Muammar Qadhafi's regime began. But seven months later, even with reports of Qadhafi's death, America's work there is not complete. [Read: 7 Challenges for a Post-Qadhafi Libya.]

This morning, as U.S. officials awaited confirmation of Qadhafi's death, Libyans celebrated the news in the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi. According to Reuters, the Transitional National Council, Libya's interim leaders, claimed Qadhafi died due to injuries sustained during NATO airstrikes on his convoy. Reports suggest he may also have been shot. Just before, according to reports from Libya, TNC fighters took control of Sirte, considered the last major holdout of pro-Qadhafi forces.

The news comes just days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited with Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril in Tripoli to promise America's commitment to the Libyan people. According to Clinton, the international coalition will continue to protect civilians "until the threat from Qadhafi and those who hang to the past is ended." While that day may now be here, the United States also has a role to play to support what's likely to be a long and difficult democratic transition. [Read: Rebel victory in Libya is a vindication for Obama.]

Already, Clinton said in Tripoli, the administration is working to unlock billions of dollars in the previous regime's frozen assets to help with Libya's recovery. The administration, she said, would also provide $40 million to help Libya "secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons." In addition, the United States will engage in educational and cultural exchanges with Libyans to encourage economic cooperation between the two nations and to help Libya integrate into world markets. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Middle East uprisings.]

Since the start of the Libyan revolution, President Obama and his administration have been careful to remain on the periphery, making sure that the victory remains in the hands of Libyans themselves. So, apart from economic cooperation and foreign aid, the United States may also have a guiding role to play as the country plans its path toward becoming a democratic nation. "The United States knows something about revolution and liberty. That is how our nation was born more than 230 years ago," Clinton told the Libyans. "And we know that democracy takes time; it will not be easy or quick. But we are filled with admiration for what you have already accomplished and confident in your ability to move forward."