Monday, August 19, 2013

background on al-Qaeda in Benghazi

Nightmare in Libya: Thousands of Surface-to-Air Missiles Unaccounted For
Sept. 27, 2011

The White House announced today it planned to expand a program to secure and destroy Libya's huge stockpile of dangerous surface-to-air missiles, following an ABC News report that large numbers of them continue to be stolen from unguarded military warehouses.

Currently the U.S. State Department has one official on the ground in Libya, as well as five contractors who specialize in "explosive ordinance disposal", all working with the rebel Transitional National Council to find the looted missiles, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters.
"We expect to deploy additional personnel to assist the TNC as they expand efforts to secure conventional arms storage sites," Carney said. "We're obviously at a governmental level -- both State Department and at the U.N. and elsewhere -- working with the TNC on this."

ABC News reported today U.S. officials and security experts were concerned some of the thousands of heat-seeking missiles could easily end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists groups, creating a threat to commercial airliners.

"Matching up a terrorist with a shoulder-fired missile, that's our worst nightmare," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, a member of the Senate's Commerce, Energy and Transportation Committee.
Though Libya had an estimated 20,000 man-portable surface-to-air missiles before the popular uprising began in February, Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro told ABC News today the government does not have a clear picture of how many missiles they're trying to track down.
"We're making great progress and we expect in the coming days and weeks we will have a much greater picture of how many are missing," Shapiro said.

The missiles, four to six-feet long and Russian-made, can weigh just 55 pounds with launcher. They lock on to the heat generated by the engines of aircraft, can be fired from a vehicle or from a combatant's shoulder, and are accurate and deadly at a range of more than two miles.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch first warned about the problem after a trip to Libya six months ago. He took pictures of pickup truckloads of the missiles being carted off during another trip just a few weeks ago.  "I myself could have removed several hundred if I wanted to, and people can literally drive up with pickup trucks or even 18 wheelers and take away whatever they want," said Bouckaert, HRW's emergencies director. "Every time I arrive at one of these weapons facilities, the first thing we notice going missing is the surface-to-air missiles."

The ease with which rebels and other unknown parties have snatched thousands of the missiles has raised alarms that the weapons could end up in the hands of al Qaeda, which is active in Libya.
"There certainly are dangerous groups operating in the region, and we're very concerned that some of these weapons could end up in the wrong hands," said Bouckaert.

"I think the probability of al Qaeda being able to smuggle some of the stinger-like missiles out of Libya is probably pretty high," said Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism advisor and now a consultant to ABC News.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, told ABC News in a statement similar to Carney's remarks that, "Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya's efforts to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles, including recover, control, and disposal of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles."

Boxer: U.S. Passenger Jets at Risk
Adding to the urgency is the fact that America's passenger jets, like those of most countries, are sitting ducks, despite years of warning about the missile threat. Since the 1970s, according to the U.S. State Department, more than 40 civilian planes around the world have been hit by surface-to-air missiles. In 2003, Iraqi insurgents hit a DHL cargo plane with a missile in Baghdad. Though on fire, the plane was able to land safely. Four years later, militants knocked a Russian-built cargo plane out of the sky over Somalia, killing all 11 crew members.

Now there are calls in Congress to give jets that fly overseas the same protection military aircraft have. "I think we should ensure that the wide-bodied planes all have this protection," said Sen. Boxer, who first spoke to ABC News about the surface-to-air security threat in 2006. "And that's a little more than 500 of these planes." Boxer sent a letter today to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano urging the two to establish a joint program "to protect commercial aircraft from the threat of shoulder-fired missiles."

According to Boxer, it would cost about a million dollars a plane for a system that has been installed and successfully tested over the last few years, directing a laser beam into the incoming missile.
"For us to sit idly by and not do anything when we could protect 2 billion passengers over the next 20 years [with] a relatively small amount of money [from] the Department of Defense, I think that's malfeasance," said Boxer. "I think that's wrong." And it could be more practical than trying to round up all the missing Libyan missiles.

"Once these missiles walk away from these facilities, they're very difficult to get back, as the CIA realized in Afghanistan," said Bouckaert.  When the Afghan mujahideen were fighting the Soviets more than two decades ago, the CIA supplied the Afghans with 1,000 Stinger surface-to-air missiles, which had a devastating effect on Soviet military aircraft. After the Soviets had retreated, however, the CIA spent millions of dollars trying to buy back the remaining missiles from the Afghan fighters.
According to Bouckaert, the CIA spent up to $100,000 a piece to reacquire the Stingers.
"In Libya we're talking about something on the order of 20,000 surface-to-air missiles," said Bouckaert. "This is one of the greatest stockpiles of these weapons that has ever gone on the loose."

Qaddafi's Great Arms Bazaar 
by Peter Bouckaert
Published in: Foreign Policy, April 8, 2011

During his 42 years in power, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's unpredictable behavior has become the stuff of legend. But on one issue Qaddafi was remarkably consistent: He was unrelentingly obsessed with purchasing a massive arsenal of weapons from whoever was offering them. As a result, much of Libya resembles one vast arms bazaar -- a museum of curiosities for arms inspectors, and a gallery of horror for those concerned about the safety of civilians. With the collapse of Qaddafi's control in eastern Libya, vast amounts of weapons and munitions are now up for grabs, often to whoever gets there first.

I have been traveling around eastern Libya for most of the past six weeks, since the first days of the regime's collapse, trying to establish a record of the ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Human Rights Watch has been investigating the large-scale killings of protesters by Qaddafi's forces in February, as well as the more recent possible forced disappearance [3] of hundreds of people into the custody of Qaddafi's fighters at the front.

Reporting from eastern Libya has been a roller-coaster ride: I have witnessed the euphoria of the uprising's early days, as Libyans celebrated their newfound freedom, to the despair of just a few weeks ago as Qaddafi's forces were once again at the gates of Benghazi. For many in eastern Libya now coming to grips with the limitations of their own untrained and unskilled rebels, the future remains uncertain. For these people, there is no middle ground -- either the rebellion succeeds, or they face certain death if Qaddafi regains control of the East.

And we've been looking at weapons and munitions -- lots of them. These arsenals represent a matter of pressing concern for human rights organizations because in the wrong hands, powerful military weapons can wreak havoc on the civilian population. In 2003, Human Rights Watch researchers deployed all over Iraq to inform U.S. authorities of the massive, unsecured weapons caches that we had found scattered across the country, urging them to secure the stocks.  ...We watched in despair as weapons stocks were looted in places like Baquba, where Saddam's Second Military College had vast supplies of powerful munitions. Everyone paid the price for the failure to secure those weapons: Baquba became the capital of the bomb technicians, turning thousands of high-explosive artillery shells into powerful explosives aimed at the civilian population, the Iraqi security forces, and the Western militaries occupying Iraq. And eight years later, the Iraqi insurgents still haven't run out of their stock of weapons.

Libyans are extraordinarily welcoming people, and they don't seem to mind when I poke my nose into the backs of the battle-ready pickups at the front line and snap some pictures of the weapons and munitions the rebels are carrying. Even at the military bases and weapon depots under rebel control, a few words of introduction normally led to a warm welcome and a tour of the facilities. That is, if there is anyone guarding the facilities in the first place. When I went to the main military weapons depot in the contested town of Ajdabiya on March 27, just after Qaddafi's forces had fled the city and rebels were still busy celebrating their victory, I had the entire base and its 35 munitions bunkers, stacked to the rafters with weapons, all to myself for several hours.

What we found was shocking. Qaddafi's weapon stocks far exceeded what we saw in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein; some of the weapons, such as the surface-to-air missiles capable of downing a civilian aircraft, now floating around freely in eastern Libya are giving security officials around the world sleepless nights. After I began circulating some of the pictures I had taken, I began getting anxious calls from arms-control officials, asking for more details about what I had seen. There is good cause for U.S. and European officials to worry -- there are rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles, and artillery shells full of explosives that can easily be refashioned into car bombs. And there are plenty of groups in the region, including al Qaeda affiliates and rebel movements, that would love to get their hands on these weapons.

Among the weapons of greatest concern to Western security officials is the SA-7 "Grail" surface-to-air missile, a Soviet-designed, heat-seeking, shoulder-launched missile designed specifically to shoot down low-flying planes. The SA-7 -- basically a long green tube with the missile inside -- belongs to a family of weapons known as man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS. Although these weapons date back to the 1960s, they remain extremely deadly, especially against civilian planes without defense systems. Two SA-7 missiles were fired by al Qaeda operatives at an Israeli chartered Boeing 757 during a November 2002 attack in Mombasa, Kenya, narrowly missing the plane. During the past month and a half, we have seen literally hundreds of SA-7s floating around freely in eastern Libya. The SA-7s require assembly with a trigger mechanism and a battery cooling pack attached to the launch tube, and many of the launch tubes we saw were unassembled. However, some of the SA-7s had been fully assembled.

While the SA-7s have caused the greatest alarm among Western security experts, the rest of Qaddafi's extensive arsenal is nothing to laugh at. We found many varieties of guided anti-tank missiles, including the advanced laser-guided AT-14 "Spriggan" (known in Russia as the Kornet), which was reportedly used by Gaza-based militants one day ago in an attack on a school bus in southern Israel that critically injured a teenager. The Spriggan also served as one of Hezbollah's most effective weapons against Israeli tanks in the 2006 Lebanon war. And there are tens of thousands of some of the nastiest anti-tank mines in the world in Qaddafi's warehouses -- nasty because they are made mostly out of hard-to-detect plastic and can be armed with an anti-lifting device that causes the mine to explode when attempts are made to remove it from the ground.

We also found thousands of 122-mm "Grad" rockets, which are used in a launcher that fires salvos of 40 rockets at one go and are capable of sowing destruction up to 40 miles away. The Grads were the Afghan mujahideen's weapon of choice during their deadly civil war in the early 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal -- they used these rockets to reduce Kabul to rubble. Eastern Libya is also home to tens of thousands of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, which are powerful enough to blow up a tank or punch a hole in a concrete building. We found tens of thousands of artillery, tank, and howitzer shells of various calibers, all loaded with high explosives easily convertible into car or roadside bombs. We even found HESH (high-explosive squash-head) shells, which are filled with plastic explosives -- a dangerous tool in the hands of terrorist groups.

The dangers we saw were not limited to the unguarded stockpiles of weapons. There are vast amounts of abandoned munitions and unexploded ordnance everywhere on the constantly shifting front lines along the coastal highway in eastern Libya. The recent airstrikes by international coalition forces on Libyan government military targets have added to the battlefield debris, leaving behind destroyed ammunition, vehicles, tanks, Grad launchers, and artillery pieces, often still loaded with munitions. Families, often with their children, have been visiting some of these strike sites, taking away potentially deadly mementos.

Qaddafi's forces have added to the dangers by laying new minefields -- we discovered two such fields, containing dozens of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, in Ajdabiya after pro-regime forces withdrew. Who knows how many more such minefields have been laid, only to be discovered when someone steps or drives over these concealed hazards?

The news is not all grim. Part of the good news is that the opposition forces in eastern Libya have now begun to take stronger steps to secure the weapon storage facilities in the areas under their control, and have begun to deploy military teams to collect dangerous unexploded and abandoned weapons. Human Rights Watch has been meeting with opposition officials, both civilian and military, for weeks now to discuss the dangers posed by some of these weapons as well as other human rights concerns, and have been impressed by their willingness to consider our recommendations and take corrective actions. A lot remains to be done, of course, but the commitment of the rebel authorities to break with the past and build a modern country that respects civil rights seems sincere and consistent with their actions to date. We'll continue to watch them and their conduct closely.

Peter Bouckaert is emergencies director of Human Rights Watch. He has spent four of the last six weeks working in eastern Libya.

Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.
By C. J. CHIVERS and ERIC SCHMITT - March 24, 2013

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.

The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.

From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the shipments or its role in them.

The shipments also highlight the competition for Syria’s future between Sunni Muslim states and Iran, the Shiite theocracy that remains Mr. Assad’s main ally. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq on Sunday to do more to halt Iranian arms shipments through its airspace; he did so even as the most recent military cargo flight from Qatar for the rebels landed at Esenboga early Sunday night.
Syrian opposition figures and some American lawmakers and officials have argued that Russian and Iranian arms shipments to support Mr. Assad’s government have made arming the rebels more necessary.

Most of the cargo flights have occurred since November, after the presidential election in the United States and as the Turkish and Arab governments grew more frustrated by the rebels’ slow progress against Mr. Assad’s well-equipped military. The flights also became more frequent as the humanitarian crisis inside Syria deepened in the winter and cascades of refugees crossed into neighboring countries.

The Turkish government has had oversight over much of the program, down to affixing transponders to trucks ferrying the military goods through Turkey so it might monitor shipments as they move by land into Syria, officials said. The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

“A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment,” said Hugh Griffiths, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, who monitors illicit arms transfers. “The intensity and frequency of these flights,” he added, are “suggestive of a well-planned and coordinated clandestine military logistics operation.”

Although rebel commanders and the data indicate that Qatar and Saudi Arabia had been shipping military materials via Turkey to the opposition since early and late 2012, respectively, a major hurdle was removed late last fall after the Turkish government agreed to allow the pace of air shipments to accelerate, officials said.

Simultaneously, arms and equipment were being purchased by Saudi Arabia in Croatia and flown to Jordan on Jordanian cargo planes for rebels working in southern Syria and for retransfer to Turkey for rebels groups operating from there, several officials said.  These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called “a cataract of weaponry.”

American officials, rebel commanders and a Turkish opposition politician have described the Arab roles as an open secret, but have also said the program is freighted with risk, including the possibility of drawing Turkey or Jordan actively into the war and of provoking military action by Iran.  Still, rebel commanders have criticized the shipments as insufficient, saying the quantities of weapons they receive are too small and the types too light to fight Mr. Assad’s military effectively. They also accused those distributing the weapons of being parsimonious or corrupt.

“The outside countries give us weapons and bullets little by little,” said Abdel Rahman Ayachi, a commander in Soquor al-Sham, an Islamist fighting group in northern Syria.  He made a gesture as if switching on and off a tap. “They open and they close the way to the bullets like water,” he said.
Two other commanders, Hassan Aboud of Soquor al-Sham and Abu Ayman of Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist group, said that whoever was vetting which groups receive the weapons was doing an inadequate job.

“There are fake Free Syrian Army brigades claiming to be revolutionaries, and when they get the weapons they sell them in trade,” Mr. Aboud said. The former American official noted that the size of the shipments and the degree of distributions are voluminous. “People hear the amounts flowing in, and it is huge,” he said. “But they burn through a million rounds of ammo in two weeks.”

A Tentative Start
The airlift to Syrian rebels began slowly. On Jan. 3, 2012, months after the crackdown by the Alawite-led government against antigovernment demonstrators had morphed into a military campaign, a pair of Qatar Emiri Air Force C-130 transport aircraft touched down in Istanbul, according to air traffic data.

They were a vanguard.
Weeks later, the Syrian Army besieged Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Artillery and tanks pounded neighborhoods. Ground forces moved in. Across the country, the army and loyalist militias were trying to stamp out the rebellion with force — further infuriating Syria’s Sunni Arab majority, which was severely outgunned. The rebels called for international help, and more weapons.
By late midspring the first stream of cargo flights from an Arab state began, according to air traffic data and information from plane spotters.

On a string of nights from April 26 through May 4, a Qatari Air Force C-17 — a huge American-made cargo plane — made six landings in Turkey, at Esenboga Airport. By Aug. 8 the Qataris had made 14 more cargo flights. All came from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, a hub for American military logistics in the Middle East.

Qatar has denied providing any arms to the rebels. A Qatari official, who requested anonymity, said Qatar has shipped in only what he called nonlethal aid. He declined to answer further questions. It is not clear whether Qatar has purchased and supplied the arms alone or is also providing air transportation service for other donors. But American and other Western officials, and rebel commanders, have said Qatar has been an active arms supplier — so much so that the United States became concerned about some of the Islamist groups that Qatar has armed.

The Qatari flights aligned with the tide-turning military campaign by rebel forces in the northern province of Idlib, as their campaign of ambushes, roadside bombs and attacks on isolated outposts began driving Mr. Assad’s military and supporting militias from parts of the countryside.
As flights continued into the summer, the rebels also opened an offensive in that city — a battle that soon bogged down.

The former American official said David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director until November, had been instrumental in helping to get this aviation network moving and had prodded various countries to work together on it. Mr. Petraeus did not return multiple e-mails asking for comment.  The American government became involved, the former American official said, in part because there was a sense that other states would arm the rebels anyhow. The C.I.A. role in facilitating the shipments, he said, gave the United States a degree of influence over the process, including trying to steer weapons away from Islamist groups and persuading donors to withhold portable antiaircraft missiles that might be used in future terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft.

American officials have confirmed that senior White House officials were regularly briefed on the shipments. “These countries were going to do it one way or another,” the former official said. “They weren’t asking for a ‘Mother, may I?’ from us. But if we could help them in certain ways, they’d appreciate that.”  Through the fall, the Qatari Air Force cargo fleet became even more busy, running flights almost every other day in October. But the rebels were clamoring for even more weapons, continuing to assert that they lacked the firepower to fight a military armed with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and aircraft.

Many were also complaining, saying they were hearing from arms donors that the Obama administration was limiting their supplies and blocking the distribution of the antiaircraft and anti-armor weapons they most sought. These complaints continue.  “Arming or not arming, lethal or nonlethal — it all depends on what America says,” said Mohammed Abu Ahmed, who leads a band of anti-Assad fighters in Idlib Province.

The Breakout
Soon, other players joined the airlift: In November, three Royal Jordanian Air Force C-130s landed in Esenboga, in a hint at what would become a stepped-up Jordanian and Saudi role.  Within three weeks, two other Jordanian cargo planes began making a round-trip run between Amman, the capital of Jordan, and Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where, officials from several countries said, the aircraft were picking up a large Saudi purchase of infantry arms from a Croatian-controlled stockpile.
The first flight returned to Amman on Dec. 15, according to intercepts of a transponder from one of the aircraft recorded by a plane spotter in Cyprus and air traffic control data from an aviation official in the region.

In all, records show that two Jordanian Ilyushins bearing the logo of the Jordanian International Air Cargo firm but flying under Jordanian military call signs made a combined 36 round-trip flights between Amman and Croatia from December through February. The same two planes made five flights between Amman and Turkey this January.

As the Jordanian flights were under way, the Qatari flights continued and the Royal Saudi Air Force began a busy schedule, too — making at least 30 C-130 flights into Esenboga from mid-February to early March this year, according to flight data provided by a regional air traffic control official.
Several of the Saudi flights were spotted coming and going at Ankara by civilians, who alerted opposition politicians in Turkey.

“The use of Turkish airspace at such a critical time, with the conflict in Syria across our borders, and by foreign planes from countries that are known to be central to the conflict, defines Turkey as a party in the conflict,” said Attilla Kart, a member of the Turkish Parliament from the C.H.P. opposition party, who confirmed details about several Saudi shipments. “The government has the responsibility to respond to these claims.”

Turkish and Saudi Arabian officials declined to discuss the flights or any arms transfers. The Turkish government has not officially approved military aid to Syrian rebels.  Croatia and Jordan both denied any role in moving arms to the Syrian rebels. Jordanian aviation officials went so far as to insist that no cargo flights occurred.

The director of cargo for Jordanian International Air Cargo, Muhammad Jubour, insisted on March 7 that his firm had no knowledge of any flights to or from Croatia.  “This is all lies,” he said. “We never did any such thing.”  A regional air traffic official who has been researching the flights confirmed the flight data, and offered an explanation. “Jordanian International Air Cargo,” the official said, “is a front company for Jordan’s air force.”  After being informed of the air-traffic control and transponder data that showed the plane’s routes, Mr. Jubour, from the cargo company, claimed that his firm did not own any Ilyushin cargo planes.  Asked why his employer’s Web site still displayed images of two Ilyushin-76MFs and text claiming they were part of the company fleet, Mr. Jubour had no immediate reply. That night the company’s Web site was taken down.

Reporting was contributed by Robert F. Worth from Washington and Istanbul; Dan Bilefsky from Paris; and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey.

Arming Syria’s Rebellion: How Libyan Weapons and Know-How Reach Anti-Assad Fighters
By Rania Abouzeid / Antakya, Turkey May 29, 2013

• The beefy Libyan revolutionary field commander turned politician rose from the beige couch to greet his new Syrian guest, who pulled up a chair to join the two other Syrian men seated in a semicircle around the couch in the café of a hotel in the southern Turkish city of Antakya, near the Syrian border.

• The Libyan had traveled from Zintan, in northwest Libya, while a fellow countryman, a former militia commander from Benghazi, had traveled from that port city to hold court in this Turkish hotel and meet some of the rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. (Both Libyans requested anonymity, because of the nature of their mission.)

• The Syrians seated around the Libyans on this warm night in mid-May were all from Islamist military units that operate outside the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which claims to represent most of Syria’s rebels. The night before, the Libyans said, had been the turn of the FSA, which is generally less Islamist than the rebels now seated at the hotel: the Libyans had met a colonel in the FSA who had sat on the same beige couch. He had defected relatively early in the now more than two-year conflict, and had nominally held a senior position in the coterie of exiled FSA officers in southern Turkey who at one point claimed to speak for the armed opposition but who have since been sidelined by other, newer defectors.

It’s a common sight to see clumps of Arab men, mainly Syrian but sometimes speaking in other Arabic dialects or accents, huddled in meetings or milling about in certain Turkish hotels not only in Antakya but also in other border cities adjacent to crossings into Syria. The meetings usually don’t start until at least the late afternoon, or more commonly in the evening, and can continue well into the early hours of the morning. Some of the men are making deals to buy or sell weapons and ammunition, or are trying to secure financing to do so by meeting with wealthy financial patrons — either Syrian or foreign — who want to contribute to the war without joining the front lines. And then there are the foreign fighters, the men with the long beards and the short pants worn above the ankle in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad, who are waiting for Syrian rebels to take them into Syria.

The reason for this night’s meeting, and indeed for the Libyans’ 10-day trip to southern Turkey and across the border into northern Syria, was to help the Libyans figure out how to get some of Libya’s vast and loose stockpiles of machine guns, artillery, ammunition and antiaircraft systems — leftovers amassed largely by snatching government stockpiles during their own successful military uprising against their late dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and from supplies donated to the Libyan rebels by the oil-rich Gulf nation of Qatar — to Assad’s opponents.

The transfer of Libyan arms to Syrian rebels — and to other countries in the region — was documented in a U.N. Security Council report published in April. The report, by the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts, described shipments from various places in Libya and suggested that some local officials, or their representatives, were either involved in the shipments or allowed them to happen.

An arms embargo, which is still in place, was imposed on Libya at the start of the uprising in 2011 that overthrew Gaddafi. Former commanders, like the two men at the meeting in Antakya, are sympathetic to the Syrian rebels in their bid to oust Assad and are helping them by steering weapons through Turkey and, according to the U.N. report, through northern Lebanon. In some cases, the Libyans foot the bill for either the weapons or their transportation or both; in others, the Syrians may pay for some of the weapons or their shipping. Turkey has long denied that its territory is used for such purposes. The meeting at the hotel in Antakya, to which TIME was given access on the condition that no one present be identified, provided a rare insight into the distribution of the weapons described in the U.N. report.

The meeting was also about forging direct contacts between the Libyans and Syrians, and bypassing Qatar. In the past, the Libyans said, the Qataris have acted as “deliverymen” for five planeloads of weaponry the Libyans claim they sent via Turkey since last summer, but the Libyans claimed the Qataris and Turks had been removing the heavy weaponry they had sent. TIME could not confirm the men’s claims about either the shipments or the Qatari or Turkish involvement. One of the Syrian commanders present at the meeting in Antakya said that he had received a share of the Libyan weapons delivered since last summer. “We sent heavy weapons, including heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles, 12.7-mm antiaircraft guns, 14.5s (antiaircraft guns), Kornets (Russian antitank missiles),” the Libyan from Benghazi said. “We know that advanced weapons left from Tripoli and Benghazi, arrived in Turkey and were supposed to get to Syria. They didn’t.”

The rebels have long pleaded for heavy weaponry, but the international community has grappled with their demand, with many countries wary of sending advanced weapons into a chaotic battlefield without firm guarantees that they won’t find their way into hands of elements considered undesirable to the West (mainly ultraconservative Islamists), or be used in terrorist attacks, either inside Syria or across its borders.

Still, there has been some movement on the issue. The European Union said on Monday that it would not renew its arms embargo on the Syrian opposition, freeing member states to decide their own policy about arming the rebels. Still, it’s unlikely that E.U. weapons will be inside Syria any time soon. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who along with his French counterpart was pushing to lift the ban, said that Britain had “no plans to send arms at the moment,” according to press reports. The rebels are hoping — but not waiting — for those E.U. guns. In the meantime, they are looking a little closer to home, to their Arab brothers in Libya, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to arm and fund them.
“We now have a large batch of weapons ready to be shipped out from Benghazi,” the Libyan from Zintan said, “but we are not going to ship it until we can be sure that it will arrive, and that all of it will arrive.”

What if al-Qaeda Gets Syrian Chemical Weapons?
The Syrian men who sat radially around the beige couch in the Turkish hotel were keen to get their hands on some of that batch of weapons. But first, the Libyans wanted to know who the Syrians were exactly and which rebel group each represented. There was a representative from Jund-Allah (Soldiers of God), which operates in and around the capital Damascus; a commander from Ansar al-din (Supporters of the Faith) in Lattakia province; and most significantly a man who is one of the seven members of the political office of Jabhat Syria il-Islamiya (the Syrian Islamic Front), one of the country’s largest, most cohesive and strongest Islamist militant coalitions, led by the Salafi Ahrar al-Sham Brigades. (The extremist al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra is not part of this alliance.)

Coffee was ordered — Turkish coffee for the Syrians and cappuccinos for the Libyans. The Libyan from Zintan, wearing faded black jeans, a cream-colored shirt stretched taut across his waist and a gray sports jacket, did most of the talking. He fingered black worry beads, while his colleague from Benghazi listened. His first question was about whether the men around him recognized the FSA and its 14 provincial military councils. All said they did not. “Their commanders are failures, they are corrupt,” the Syrian from Ansar al-Din said.

“There is not even one battalion, in all honesty, that they can control,” the Islamic Front representative said. “These people [senior defectors in the FSA like the one the Libyans had met the night before] were placed as facades, in the beginning, as media personalities, but as real commanders on the ground? Not at all.”

The Libyan’s next question was one he would repeat or refer to 16 times over the next two and a half hours: “Why aren’t you united?” And every time, the Syrians would politely respond that their Islamist battalions were better organized and disciplined and had a clearer chain of command than their more-secular FSA counterparts, but that asking for greater unity than that was a difficult proposition.  As the night unfurled, the Libyan clearly grew frustrated with their answers to this question, as did the Syrians to his repetitive query. “Brothers, strength is in your unity,” the Libyan said. “Just tell me why you aren’t united! Tell me what is the obstacle? What is it?”

Read more:

Libya arms fueling conflicts in Syria, Mali and beyond: U.N. experts

By Michelle Nichols, Apr., 9, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Weapons are spreading from Libya at an "alarming rate," fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria and elsewhere and boosting the arsenals of extremists and criminals in the region, according to a U.N. report published on Tuesday.

The report by the U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts - who monitor an arms embargo imposed on Libya at the start of an uprising in 2011 which ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi - said the North African state had become a key source of weapons in the region as its nascent government struggles to exert authority.

Libyan government security forces remain weak and militias, made up of former rebel fighters, hold power on the ground.  "Cases, both proven and under investigation, of illicit transfers from Libya in violation of the embargo cover more than 12 countries and include heavy and light weapons, including man-portable air defense systems, small arms and related ammunition and explosives and mines," the experts wrote in the report.

"Illicit flows from the country are fuelling existing conflicts in Africa and the Levant and enriching the arsenals of a range of non-State actors, including terrorist groups," according to the 94-page report, which was dated February 15 but published on Tuesday.  "The proliferation of weapons from Libya continues at an alarming rate," the report said.

The experts said transfers of arms to Syria - where a two-year-old civil war has killed more than 70,000 people - had been organized from various locations in Libya, including Misrata and Benghazi, via Turkey or northern Lebanon. "The significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved," the experts said.

The report also found that in the past year flows of Libyan weapons to Egypt appeared to have increased significantly. "While trafficking from Libya to Egypt represents a challenge primarily for Egypt's internal security, in particular in relation to armed groups in the Sinai, some of the materiel appears to have crossed Egypt to further destinations, including the Gaza Strip," the experts wrote.
Security in the Sinai desert region, which borders Israel and is home to a number of tourist resorts, has deteriorated since the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising two years ago.

U.N. report covers up Obama role in arming terrorists. Bombshell revelations show how secret administration policy is fueling conflicts
By Aaron Klein, April 12, 2013

Questions remain about the Obama administration’s role in supplying arms to Libyan rebels as a United Nations report released this week reveals the weapons from Libya to extremists proliferating at an “alarming rate,” fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

During the fight against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011, it was widely reported the Obama administration coordinated foreign arms shipments via cut outs to the Libyan rebels.  In December 2012, the New York Times reported that after discussions among members of the National Security Council, the Obama administration backed arms shipments to Libyan rebels from both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

American officials told the Times that the UAE first approached the Obama administration during the early months of the Libyan uprising, asking for permission to ship American-built weapons that the U.S. had supplied for the emirates’ use.  The administration rejected the request to ship U.S. weapons, instead urging the emirates to ship foreign weapons to Libya that could not be traced to the U.S., the Times reported.

“The U.A.E. was asking for clearance to send U.S. weapons,” one former U.S. official told the Times. “We told them it’s O.K. to ship other weapons.”  The Times further reported in 2012 the White House “secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.”

There is more evidence of the Obama administration OKing arms to Libyan rebels.
In March 2011, Reuters broke the story that Obama had signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Gadhafi, quoting U.S. government officials.  Reuters noted the order was a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency.  That same month the U.K. Independent reported that “the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi.”
Now the United Nations reports weapons initially sent to Benghazi are spreading from Libya at an “alarming rate,” fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria and beyond.

The report by the U.N. Security Council’s Group of Experts said the North African state had become a key source of weapons transfers in the region, specifically blaming Qatar and the UAE for arming the rebels.  While not referencing the U.S. support for the arms transfers, the U.N. experts said they had found that Qatar and the UAE had breached the arms embargo on Libya during the 2011 uprising by arming the rebels.

The experts said Qatar had denied the accusation, while the United Arab Emirates had not responded.
“Some 18 months after the end of the conflict, some of this materiel remains under the control of non-state actors within Libya and has been found in seizures of military material being trafficked out of Libya,” according to the report.

The U.N. cites cases, both proven and under investigation, of illicit transfers from Libya to more than 12 countries and also to terror and criminal groups, including heavy and light weapons, man-portable air defense systems, small arms and related ammunition and explosives and mines.

Reuters reported the U.N. experts who penned this week’s report said transfers of arms to Syrian rebels had been organized from various locations in Libya, including Misurata and Benghazi, via Turkey or northern Lebanon.  “The significant size of some shipments and the logistics involved suggest that representatives of the Libyan local authorities might have at least been aware of the transfers, if not actually directly involved,” the experts said.  Confirming KleinOnline’s exclusive reporting for over a year, the New York Times last month reported that since early 2012, the CIA has been aiding Arab governments and Turkey in obtaining and shipping weapons to the Syrian rebels.
While the Times report claims most of the weapons shipments facilitated by the CIA began after the latest presidential election, Middle Eastern security officials speaking to KleinOnline have said U.S.-aided weapons shipments go back more than a year, escalating before the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.

In fact, the Middle Eastern security officials speaking to WND since last year describe the U.S. mission in Benghazi and nearby CIA annex attacked last September as an intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels in the Middle East, particularly those fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.  The aid, the sources stated, included weapons shipments and was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Days after the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, KleinOnline broke the story that Stevens himself played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian and other Middle Eastern security officials.  Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, said the security officials.

The officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria, said the officials.

Last month’s New York Times article has bolstered KleinOnline’s reporting, citing air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders describing how the CIA has been working with Arab governments and Turkey to sharply increase arms shipments to Syrian rebels in recent months.  The Times reported that the weapons airlifts began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanding into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows.

The Times further revealed that from offices at “secret locations,” American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia. They have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive.  The CIA declined to comment to the Times on the shipments or its role in them.

The Times quoted a former American official as saying that David H. Petraeus, the CIA director until November, had been instrumental in helping set up an aviation network to fly in the weapons. The paper said Petraeus had prodded various countries to work together on the plan.  Petraeus did not return multiple emails from the Times asking for comment.

Both KleinOnline’s reporting, which first revealed the U.S.-coordinated arms shipments, and the Times reporting starkly contrast with statements from top U.S. officials who have denied aiding the supply of weapons to the rebels.  In February, the White House flatly denied involvement in arming the Syrian rebels, going so far as to say the Obama administration rejected a plan by former Secretary of State Clinton and then-CIA Director Petraeus to help arm the rebels.

- See more at:

Are Syrian rebels now armed with heavy weapons from Croatia?
Jorge Benitez | February 25, 2013

From Michael Weiss, NOW : In one of the most strangely neglected stories in the two-year Syria conflict, beginning on January 1, four new weapon models began appearing in large quantities in Daraa province, none used at any time by the Syrian military. The M60 recoilless gun, the M79 Osa rocket launcher, the RPG-22 rocket launcher and the Milkor MGL/RGB-6 grenade launcher hadn’t been shown in any opposition videos until the new year. . . .

According to Eliot Higgins, who blogs obsessively about Syrian warfare as “Brown Moses” and who first uncovered the new hardware in Syria, the RPG-22 and M60 have since turned up in Idlib; the RPG-22, M79 and RBG-6 in Hama; the RPG-22 and M79 in Aleppo; and all four have appeared in Damascus. In an email, Higgins said that markings from M79 rocket pods suggest a manufacture date of 1990-1991, although the rocket launcher itself was first manufactured in 1979. Yet clearly this is still an improvement on the more commonly used RPG-7. . . .

That sophisticated anti-tank and anti-infantry munitions are now being funneled exclusively to non-extremist rebel units, who themselves are committed to isolating al-Qaeda, suggests either a staggering coincidence or some degree of external facilitation. Now here’s another interesting fact. The M60, the M79, the RBG-6 and the RPG-22 are all currently in use by the Croatian Army.

Croatia, which, along with a host of European and Middle Eastern powers, recognized the Syrian National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people, is not yet a member state of the European Union (it is set to accede in July of this year) and so, technically, it is not beholden to the EU arms embargo. It is, however, a member of the Friends of Syria umbrella group: Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić attended the second conference in Istanbul in 2012, and she’s previously expressed concern about Croatia’s oil and gas fields, which sanctions and deteriorating security have rendered useless. (About a year ago, Croatia instructed all of its businesses to withdraw from Syria, an act that left INA, the national oil company, operating at a loss of “hundreds of millions of euros.”) A pro-EU Balkan state not yet subject to EU jurisdiction would also have a nice geopolitical motive to help undermine a proxy of Russia.

But even assuming that Zagreb isn’t directly or indirectly supplying these arms to Syria, might a hitherto unknown arms dealer – Croatian or otherwise, state or non-state – now be working directly with a regional intermediary who is supplying them? If so, how is it that this arms dealer has managed to negotiate relatively smooth supply routes through both Jordan and Turkey?

One plausible scenario would be that these weapons were all coming from Libya, which was one of the initial arms-runners to the Syrian opposition. The former Yugoslavia, which manufactured the M60 and M79, formerly enjoyed warm ties with Muammar Qaddafi, as did Croatia prior to the Libyan revolt and subsequent NATO intervention (former Croatian President Stipe Mesić seemed to want those ties to continue regardless).

So it is possible that the M60s, M79s, RPG-22s and RBG-6s were all sold to Libya a long time ago and were only just emptied from warehouses by the National Transition Council for urgent use in another country – although this then raises the question of why it took the new Libyan government a year to send the heavy-duty materiel to the Syrians when it previously trafficked in only light arms and ammunition. Nor does this explain why the NTC suddenly decided to empower the moderates over the jihadists in a highly organized fashion that, superficially, accords with Western preconditions for supporting the armed opposition.

From Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post: A surge of rebel advances in Syria is being fueled at least in part by an influx of heavy weaponry in a renewed effort by outside powers to arm moderates in the Free Syrian Army, according to Arab and rebel officials.  The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent across the Jordanian border into the province of Daraa in recent weeks to counter the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north of Syria by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south, the officials say.
The arms are the first heavy weapons known to have been supplied by outside powers to the rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad and his family’s four-decade-old regime since the Syrian uprising began two years ago.

The officials declined to identify the source of the newly provided weapons, but they noted that the countries most closely involved in supporting the rebels’ campaign to oust Assad have grown increasingly alarmed at the soaring influence of Islamists over the fragmented rebel movement. They include the United States and its major European allies, along with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two countries most directly involved in supplying the rebels. Security officials from those nations have formed a security coordination committee that consults regularly on events in Syria, they said.

Although the Obama administration continues to refuse to directly arm the rebels, the administration has provided intelligence assistance to those who are involved in the supplies, and it also helps vet opposition forces. U.S. officials declined to comment on the new armaments.  The goal of these renewed deliveries, Arab and rebel officials said, is to reverse the unintended effect of an effort last summer to supply small arms and ammunition to rebel forces in the north, which was halted after it became clear that radical Islamists were emerging as the chief beneficiaries.  “The idea was to get heavier stuff, intensify supply and make sure it goes to the good guys,” said an Arab official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation. “If you want to weaken al-Nusra, you do it not by withholding [weapons] but by boosting the other groups.”

Louay al-Mokdad, the political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, confirmed that the rebels have procured new weapons donated from outside Syria, rather than bought on the black market or seized during the capture of government facilities, the source of the vast majority of the arms that are in the hands of the rebels. But he declined to say who was behind the effort.

C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition
Jorge Benitez | June 21, 2012

From Eric Schmitt, the New York Times: A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.
The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

The clandestine intelligence-gathering effort is the most detailed known instance of the limited American support for the military campaign against the Syrian government. It is also part of Washington’s attempt to increase the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has recently escalated his government’s deadly crackdown on civilians and the militias battling his rule. With Russia blocking more aggressive steps against the Assad government, the United States and its allies have instead turned to diplomacy and aiding allied efforts to arm the rebels to force Mr. Assad from power.

By helping to vet rebel groups, American intelligence operatives in Turkey hope to learn more about a growing, changing opposition network inside of Syria and to establish new ties. “C.I.A. officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people,” said one Arab intelligence official who is briefed regularly by American counterparts.

American officials and retired C.I.A. officials said the administration was also weighing additional assistance to rebels, like providing satellite imagery and other detailed intelligence on Syrian troop locations and movements. The administration is also considering whether to help the opposition set up a rudimentary intelligence service. But no decisions have been made on those measures or even more aggressive steps, like sending C.I.A. officers into Syria itself, they said.
The struggle inside Syria has the potential to intensify significantly in coming months as powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters. President Obama and his top aides are seeking to pressure Russia to curb arms shipments like attack helicopters to Syria, its main ally in the Middle East. . . .

What has changed since March is an influx of weapons and ammunition to the rebels. The increasingly fierce air and artillery assaults by the government are intended to counter improved coordination, tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, according to members of the Syrian National Council and other activists.

Last month, these activists said, Turkish Army vehicles delivered antitank weaponry to the border, where it was then smuggled into Syria. Turkey has repeatedly denied it was extending anything other than humanitarian aid to the opposition, mostly via refugee camps near the border. The United States, these activists said, was consulted about these weapons transfers. . . .

About 10 military coordinating councils in provinces across the country are now sharing tactics and other information. The city of Homs is the notable exception. It lacks such a council because the three main military groups in the city do not get along, national council officials said.

Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria
Jorge Benitez | October 15, 2012

From David E. Sanger, New York Times: Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.
“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.

The United States is not sending arms directly to the Syrian opposition. Instead, it is providing intelligence and other support for shipments of secondhand light weapons like rifles and grenades into Syria, mainly orchestrated from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The reports indicate that the shipments organized from Qatar, in particular, are largely going to hard-line Islamists. . . .

American officials have been trying to understand why hard-line Islamists have received the lion’s share of the arms shipped to the Syrian opposition through the shadowy pipeline with roots in Qatar, and, to a lesser degree, Saudi Arabia. The officials, voicing frustration, say there is no central clearinghouse for the shipments, and no effective way of vetting the groups that ultimately receive them.  Those problems were central concerns for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus, when he traveled secretly to Turkey last month, officials said. . . .

One Middle Eastern diplomat who has dealt extensively with the C.I.A. on the issue said that Mr. Petraeus’s goal was to oversee the process of “vetting, and then shaping, an opposition that the U.S. thinks it can work with.” According to American and Arab officials, the C.I.A. has sent officers to Turkey to help direct the aid, but the agency has been hampered by a lack of good intelligence about many rebel figures and factions. . . .

The disorganization is strengthening the hand of Islamic extremist groups in Syria, some with ties or affiliations with Al Qaeda, he said: “The longer this goes on, the more likely those groups will gain strength.”  American officials worry that, should Mr. Assad be ousted, Syria could erupt afterward into a new conflict over control of the country, in which the more hard-line Islamic groups would be the best armed.

More Benghazi Whistleblowers Ready to Step Forward
By Arnold Ahlert, May 27, 2013

According to two former diplomats who spoke with PJ Media’s Roger Simon, more Benghazi whistleblowers will emerge and blow a giant hole in the Obama administration’s already shaky narrative regarding the deaths of four Americans. Their revelations will focus on two subjects: the real purpose of Ambassador Christopher Steven’s mission in Libya, and the pressure put on former AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham to stand down from any attempt to rescue those under attack. What emerges could be devastating for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The whistleblowers are reportedly colleagues of the former diplomats. They have yet to come forward because they are in the process of obtaining lawyers, necessitated by their work in areas that are not completely covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act. Furthermore, Simon notes that, as of now, what the diplomats are saying is considered hearsay, “but the two diplomats sounded quite credible. One of them was in a position of responsibility in a dangerous area of Iraq in 2004,” he writes.

What the diplomats say the whistleblowers will reveal is that Christopher Stevens was in Benghazi to buy back Stinger missiles from al Qaeda, issued to them by the U.S. State Department. Selling such missiles to anyone is usually a function of the CIA, but they reportedly were against the idea of selling such advanced technology to elements of the “rebel movement” attempting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. Stinger missiles can endanger civilian aircraft. According to the diplomats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to move forward because she wanted “to overthrow Gaddafi on the cheap.”

When the “rebels” who were sold the missiles turned out to be al Qaeda, Stevens was tasked with the job of cleaning up the fiasco. One of the diplomats noted that it was likely the same elements of the terrorist group to whom the missiles were sold ended up attacking the consulate in Bengahzi, killing Stevens, State Department employee Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods.

The unnamed diplomat was even more contemptuous of the Clinton-led effort, likening it to the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” the story of a Congressman who thought it was a good idea to supply Stinger missiles to the mujahideen in Afghanistan during their fight to overthrow the Russians. “It’s as if Hillary and the others just watched that movie and said ‘Hey, let’s do that!’” the diplomat said.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty, who reviewed several public reports regarding the movement of Stinger missiles in Libya, insists the diplomats’ account can be corroborated and contradicted. His report highlights several critical elements, noting that rebel leaders did request the missiles, including Abdul Hakim Al-Hasadi, who was detained in Pakistan as a hostile combatant by U.S. forces in 2002 “while returning from Afghanistan where I fought against foreign invasion,” according to Al-Hasadi himself.

As for the U.S. directly supplying missiles to the rebels, Geraghty cites two different New York Times reports revealing other possibilities. The first report notes that the rebels were securing such missiles from the Gaddafi regime’s captured storage bunkers. The second report was far more devastating to the Obama administration, noting that it gave its blessing to Qatar to ship arms to the insurgency, before becoming “alarmed” that the weapons were ending up in the hands of “Islamic militants.” The Times insisted there was no evidence that such missiles were linked to the Benghazi attacks. But considering there’s been no specific identification of the Qatari weapons or the specific ordnance used to attack the consulate, such claims are dubious at best. Geraghty further notes that such shipments violate UN Resolution 270 prohibiting the direct or indirect sale or transfer of weapons to any party in Libya.

Thus, who sold Stinger missiles to the rebels remains in question. However, the diplomats’ contention regarding Stevens’ real mission in Benghazi was buttressed by an Oct. 23, 2011 column in The Telegraph. Reporter Con Coughlin revealed that ”teams of CIA officers, supported by other intelligence services such as Britain’s MI6, have been scouring Libya in search of the missing missiles” following the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in August. Reuters further noted that the consulate “had been a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles,” a fact inadvertently revealed during a House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing about security lapses in Benghazi. The day after that hearing Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accused Republicans of ”boneheaded questioning” of State Department witnesses that left little doubt that the consulate was a ”CIA base.”

Geraghty sums up his investigative report with the other major, but as yet unsubstantiated, reason the CIA was in Benghazi. ”During this time, a large number of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, were leaving Libya and arriving in Turkey en route to Syrian rebels–and the CIA had personnel in both countries assigned to monitor and assist the arms shipments.”

The diplomats contend the whistleblowers will report that Stevens was attempting to procure the Stingers. This does not negate the possibility that the effort was being done to arm Syrian rebels, absent involvement that could be directly traced back to the Obama administration. It is worth remembering that in assisting the overthrow of Gaddafi, Obama violated the War Powers Act of 1973 requiring Congressional approval of the use military force after 60 days. The president sidestepped it by asserting that no American troops were put in harm’s way. If the administration is arming Syrian rebels, it would appear that both Resolution 270 and the War Powers Act are once again irrelevant, as far as the administration is concerned.

As troubling as the first assertion made by the diplomats is, the second one is far more damning. Their contacts insist that AFRICOM had Special Ops “assets in place that could have come to the aid of the Benghazi consulate immediately” (emphasis mine). They further insist that it will be revealed the White house told Ham to stand down, and when he refused, the White House “called his deputy and had the deputy threaten to relieve Ham of his command.”  Ham retired as head of AFRICOM in April. Yet the announcement of his retirement was released by the Defense Department on Oct 31, 2012. It said that Ham would eventually step down, even as he retained “the full confidence of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” according to Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who further noted Ham’s decision to retire was “entirely personal.”
It was also unusual. Ham was removed from a position with a three year rotation well short of that mark.

On October 25, 2012, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted that, with regard to a rescue operation ”you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place, and as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”  Yet Ham himself never referenced any discussions with Panetta or Dempsey when he told Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) he was never given the order to secure the Benghazi consulate. Chaffetz also said Ham told him forces were available and “had proximity” to the consulate.

Obviously, whistleblowers providing credible information on both topics would prove invaluable with regard to giving Americans the truth about what happened on September 11, 2012, as a well as a motive for the administration’s disinformation campaign. If Hillary Clinton gave the OK to sell missiles to “insurgents,” her judgement at the very least, would be called into question, putting her chances of securing the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 in serious jeopardy. It would also reveal the utter callousness and calculated mendacity of a woman who knows full well “what difference at this point” such a revelation would make.

Yet whistleblower testimony regarding pressure to avoid rescuing Americans–that could possibly be corroborated by the former head of AFRICOM– would deal this administration a blow from which it might never recover. Americans may countenance many things, but the idea that we would abandon Americans under fire in Benghazi to protect the Obama administration’s pre-election narrative that terror was “on the run” isn’t one of them. Nothing would make Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America ring any more hollow than that.

Ancient U.S. Weapon Makes a Surprise Reappearance in Syria
• By Brendan McNally

Watch enough YouTube videos of the fighting in Syria, and you’ll start to notice it: a long-tubed gun, mounted on the back of either a jeep or large, fast pickup. Usually it’s blasting bunkers, blockhouses, fortified positions, or places where snipers are hiding. It even goes after tanks. And whenever it fires, the gun seems to kick up way more hell behind it than what it sends out the barrel’s front end. It’s the M40 106mm recoilless rifle, an American-made, Vietnam-vintage weapon that got dropped from the Army and Marine inventory back during the early 1970s. Until recently, the 106mm hadn’t seen much action in the irregular wars that have swept the globe. Then M40s somehow came into the hands of rebels in Libya and Syria. Suddenly, the 106mm – light, cheap, easily transportable, simple to operate, and packing a punch all out of proportion to its modest size — has emerged as a possible Great Asymmetric Weapon of the Day.

Although the U.S. military no longer officially uses the M40, they still keep some around. A few found their way to Afghanistan where they were put to use by certain Special Forces units. The Danish and Australian armies, which acquired them from the U.S. decades ago under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, used them extensively during their ground operations there.
In Libya, the M40 was used primarily in urban warfare, killing tanks and fortified positions. How exactly it found its way into the hands of the rebels there is a bit of a mystery. The M40s showed up in Libya along with thousands of brand new Belgian FN rifles, apparently from Western arsenals. That lead many to suspect they were supplied by Western intelligence. The M40s currently being seen in Syria might be coming either from the same sources that supplied the Libyan rebels or even from the Libyans themselves.

There is also a strong possibility that these weapons might actually be of Iranian origin. Iran’s state-owned weapons arsenal, the Defense Industry Organization, has been manufacturing what was originally a licensed-version of the M40. Now called the “Anti-Tank Gun 106,” it is being offered on the open market, and are probably being supplied to the Syrian Army, which have since lost them to the rebels.

While the M40 makes a big comeback in the Middle East, dozens of other armies all over the world never stopped using it. The Danish and Australian armies have used the 106mm in Afghanistan with excellent results. It turns out that in many instances they have outperformed the expensive, high tech, anti-tank rockets like the TOW, the Javelin and others that were supposed to replace the M40 four decades ago. While no one is suggesting the replacements aren’t good weapons, all have their shortcomings. Some, like the TOW, don’t operate well in extreme environments. Others, once fired, sometimes require too many rotations before they arm; that limits their effectiveness in close-in situations. Probably the biggest problem is that whenever targets are inside mud-walled buildings (which, in places like Afghanistan, is much of the time), the explosion’s force tends to get seriously dampened. Enter the M40: a home-grown weapon, already in stock, developed and manufactured at the Watervliet Arsenal, the U.S. Army’s own gun factory, and at Benet Laboratories, which has quietly continued the weapon’s advancement during the decades it’s been out of use.

As weapons go, the M40 is almost amazingly crude. The first thing you notice about the back of the gun is that, unlike conventional cannon, the breech block has big openings. The rounds it fires look different too; the shell casings are also open, more like cages than canisters. But what makes it so different from conventional artillery is its way of dealing with recoil. Rather than try to contain it, as conventional guns do, recoilless rifles endeavor to balance it by offering the propellant gasses the easiest escape possible. That’s why the breech mechanism is vented and open, functioning like a rocket nozzle. It is also why recoilless rifles generate the massive and deadly back blast that can make them such a frightening weapon to be around.

Though the idea behind the recoilless rifle goes back five hundred years, it wasn’t until the late 19th Century that the key technologies were developed to actually make recoilless rifles practical. The Germans built a 75mm recoilless rifle used by their airborne troops during the invasion of Crete that proved to be a decisive weapon in that campaign. The U.S. developed its own version of the 75mm gun, but it did not reach the battlefield until the last weeks of the European war.

The present-day M40 106mm was developed following the Korean War and used extensively during the Vietnam War. Since the North Vietnamese almost never used their tanks, the M40 found other tasks for the weapon besides hitting armor. Sometimes it got used against enemy bunkers, but mostly, following the introduction of a steel dart-laden “beehive” round, it became a fearsome anti-personnel weapon. But in Vietnam, the M40 is best remembered for its association with the Ontos, possibly the most downright eccentric armored vehicle ever concocted for the U.S. Military. It was a tiny tank, armed with six M40 recoilless rifles, which were mounted externally on its tiny turret. The Ontos fought in countless skirmishes, but where it became part of Marine legend was in the battle for Hue during the Tet Offensive. There it was involved in some of the fiercest urban fighting in the Corps history. According to one source, the only reason the Fifth Marine Regiment survived Hue was because of the Ontos and the 106mm recoilless rifle...

Brendan McNally is a defense writer and author endlessly bouncing between Texas and the Czech Republic.

Inside Gadhafi’s Secret Underground Arsenal
• By Mike Elkin
• 03.02.11
BENGHAZI, Libya — It took a while to get into the underground bunker. There were too many men in the way, hauling too many crates of machine guns, ammunition, and 30-year-old rockets. But eventually, there was a lull. I ducked past the steel-reinforced door to the bunker’s entrance and moved down the debris-laden concrete ramp — trying very, very hard not to disturb the dozens of weapons-bearers bringing their arms to the surface.

Below, the ramp opened into a large room supported by cement columns. The air was dense and the only light came from small air ducts near the ceiling. The cases sat piled wall-to-wall, just one of many arms caches hidden away by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But now the weapons are in the hands of his enemies here, a rebellious city of nearly 1 million people who, relatively unarmed, recently drove out Gadhafi’s special forces and mercenaries. Today, the rebels are preparing for further battle — and maybe even an attack on Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli. But this time, they’ve got the weapons that the eccentric tyrant used to oppress his people for 41 years.

“We’ve found everything from bullets to rockets,” the man in the headlamp and blue spelunking jumpsuit said as he climbed out of a nearby hole that led into a small, concrete room. He led me to a manhole that descended around 50 feet to a tunnel not unlike a large sewer system. “There is a huge network of tunnels underneath us. A few friends went in two hours ago and they haven’t come out yet.” Gadhafi’s men torched the compound before they escaped in Land Rovers and through the secret tunnels.

The bunker and the tunnels form part of the Katiba, a vast, white-and green military and administrative complex from which Gadhafi could run the country. But only his inner circle and paid mercenaries were allowed inside. Until now. of the rebel tank commanders who helped lead the attack on the compound, Colonel Mohammed Samir al-Abar, told me how he rammed his tank through the outer wall. That allowed soldiers and civilians armed with rocks, swords and Molotov cocktails to storm the fortress. (The embattled Libyan leader didn’t trust the regular army, soldiers said, so he never equipped them with anything more than a uniform.)

Since Feb. 21, the city has been combing Gadhafi’s fallen military compounds for the weapons that he reserved for his special forces and his guns-for-hire. And since the base’s liberation, it has become a tourist attraction for Benghazi citizens who once prayed to Allah that they would never see the inside of it. Security forces used bunkers similar to the arms depot and the tunnels to hold and abuse political prisoners. Most of the weaponry at the Katiba has been removed and handed over to the army, although more arms were found in the Razma, a series of hills around Benghazi where Gadhafi built another base.

On Tuesday at the Salmani weapons maintenance depot, soldiers were organizing the anti-aircraft weapons found in the bunkers. Most of them date from the 1970s and 1980s, so everything had to be stripped, scrubbed, and reassembled before testing. Only a few shots, though, the commander ordered. They need to save their ammunition for Tripoli.

“It’s dirty, outdated equipment, but it works,” said reserve-soldier-turned-rebel Adel Mustafa, a jovial man with a salt-and-pepper beard. “Ninety percent are Russian made, but there’s a Chinese 107 mm multiple rocket launcher behind you. Before the people captured these cannons, the regime was using them against people. Take a look at the size of the ammunition. They were designed to be used against planes, but Gadhafi used them to kill Libyans. When this bullet hits a human being it shatters him.”

Colonel Abdel Salam and several soldiers launched a few rounds from their Russian Dushka, making a few unaware bystanders jump. First used by the Red Army in 1939, this 12.7 mm cannon was popular in World War II and production lasted until 1980. A staple in the Soviet Union’s Afghan campaigns, the Dushka can fire 600 rounds per minute and can pierce 15 mm armor plate at 500 meters.

Soldiers were also getting ready a ZPU-1 and a Shilka ZSU-23, both Soviet-made. The former made its debut following World War II, was decommissioned by the Soviets in the 1970s, but was popular with local wars in Southeast Asia and the Middle East due to its ability to be dismantled into pieces suitable to transportation over rough terrain. It uses the 14.5mm Vladimirov (KPV) heavy machine gun. The Shilka is a self-propelled, 23 mm anti-aircraft gun capable of tracking and hitting low-flying aircraft and mobile.

The rebellion’s total arsenal is unknown, but it appears that the rebel army is planning to march on Tripoli. Officers sign up civilian volunteers to join the fight next to the anti-aircraft station on the basketball court of a high school. Noting their names, ages and blood type, the army drills them in marching techniques and soon will give them basic weapons training. According to one officer, this recruiting station has assembled about 4,000 people, while at a larger army base outside of Benghazi, the total volunteer force numbers around 10,000.

“I think there will be massive fighting if we go to Tripoli,” said Salem Abdelhassid El Dressy, a 41-year-old accountant who volunteered on Tuesday. “I hope to god I am wrong, but I am ready to fight. We all want to go to Tripoli to get rid of Gadhafi.”

The Stingers of Benghazi: Was the U.S. engaged in gun-running?
National Review | 05/24/2013 | Jim Geraghty

Earlier this week, Roger L. Simon of PJ Media broke a story with shocking revelations, contending that slain U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens was in Benghazi on September 11 to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups that had been originally provided to them by the U.S. State Department.

Simon cited two former U.S. diplomats:  Stevens’ mission in Benghazi, they will say, was to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups issued to them by the State Department, not by the CIA. Such a mission would usually be a CIA effort, but the intelligence agency had opposed the idea because of the high risk involved in arming “insurgents” with powerful weapons that endanger civilian aircraft.

Hillary Clinton still wanted to proceed because, in part, as one of the diplomats said, she wanted “to overthrow [Qaddafi] on the cheap.”   This left Stevens in the position of having to clean up the scandalous enterprise when it became clear that the “insurgents” actually were al-Qaeda — indeed, in the view of one of the diplomats, the same group that attacked the consulate and ended up killing Stevens.

A careful review of reports from Libya over the past few years corroborates some parts of that account, but contradicts others:
Some Libyan rebel leaders, including at least one who had spent time in a training camp in Afghanistan and who was in that country in September 2001, specifically asked Western countries to send Stinger missiles.

Qaddafi’s intelligence services believed that the rebels were having the missiles smuggled in over the country’s southern border — but they believed the French were supplying the missiles.  There is no evidence that the U.S. supplied the weapons, but it appears they gave their blessing to a secret Qatari effort to ship arms across Libya’s southern border in violation of a United Nations arms embargo.
Anti-Qaddafi forces also obtained a significant number of anti-aircraft missiles from the regime’s bunkers early in the conflict.

Enough Stinger missiles disappeared from regime stockpiles during the civil war to become a high priority and serious worry for the administration.  (Note that in much of the coverage of Libya, “Stinger” has turned into a catch-all term for any shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missile.)

To save Eric Holder and the Department of Justice the trouble of reading my e-mail or collecting my phone records, all of the information in this report is gathered from public and open sources, both in the U.S. and overseas, and none of it can be considered classified or sensitive.

Before the war, Qaddafi’s regime in Libya possessed more of these kinds of missiles than did any other country except where they’re produced. On April 7, 2011, General Carter Ham, then recently promoted to head of U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we do estimate that there were as many as 20,000 of these types of weapons in Libya before the conflict began.”

In March 2011, Ambassador Chris Stevens became the official U.S. liaison to the Libyan opposition. He first entered Benghazi on April 5, 2011, joined by a USAID team, while the war was still raging, to meet with rebel leaders.   On March 2, 2011, Mike Elkin of Wired reported as rebel forces cleaned out the Salmani weapons-maintenance depot in Benghazi, and mentioned “30-year-old rockets” and “anti-aircraft weapons.”

Ben Knight, a foreign correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Company, said on a program a few days later (March 7, 2011) that the rebels had shown him Stinger missiles:
TONY EASTLEY: And I guess on top of that, Ben, the rebels really are not as well armed as the government forces?
BEN KNIGHT: Well, clearly not. . . . What they do have we saw some Stinger missiles today, which are missiles that are capable of locking onto a jet fighter and shooting it down. In fact, they are claiming to have shot down another jet fighter today as well as another helicopter.

By July 2011, C. J. Chivers of the New York Times reported on more anti-aircraft missiles’ being removed from storage bunkers in Ga’a, Libya:
 On a recent day, 43 emptied wooden crates — long, thin and painted in dark green — had been left behind on the sand inside the entrance. The boxes had not been there during a visit to the same spot a few days before, and the weapons were gone.

The stenciled markings showed each crate had contained a pair of lightweight missiles called SA-7s — early Soviet versions of the same class of weapon as the better known American-made Stingers, which were used by Afghan fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was not clear who had taken them. The rebel guards variously blamed Qaddafi forces and misinformed opposition fighters.
Interviews with anti-Qaddafi leaders at the time indicated that one of their top priorities was obtaining anti-aircraft missiles.

In light of the PJ Media report’s claims, one of the most intriguing reports from this time period is a March 11, 2011, Canadian Globe and Mail article that interviewed insurgent leader Abdul Hakim Al-Hasadi:

“We need Stingers,” he said, referring to shoulder-mounted missiles. “We don’t need your stupid words.” . . .

Abdul Hakim Al-Hasadi, 45, [was] recently appointed chief of security in the rebel-controlled town of Darnah. Al-Hasadi says he taught history and geography at a local high school until 1995, when he escaped Libya and spent a few years travelling. He finally settled in Afghanistan in 1999. He acknowledged that he lived in a camp and received training in guerrilla warfare, but would not say who controlled the facility.

The rebel commander said he witnessed the awe-inspiring power of U.S. air strikes when bombs hit Taliban and al-Qaeda positions in 2001. “We felt extreme rage,” he said. “They were killing women and children. It made us hate the United States.”

Hasadi was detained as a hostile combatant by U.S. forces in 2002, according to an interview he gave with an Italian newspaper: “I’ve never been in Guantanamo. I was captured in 2002 in Peshawar, Pakistan, while returning from Afghanistan where I fought against foreign invasion. I was handed over to the Americans, held a few months in Islamabad, delivered to Libya, and released in 2008.”
Hasadi was not the only rebel leader imploring the West for Stinger missiles. A March 23, 2011, Reuters report quoted Fawzi Buktif, described as “an oil project engineer” then running “a training base outside Benghazi,” as saying, “We need Kalashnikovs, stingers, anti-tanks, all types of anti-tanks.”

Despite all the focus on anti-aircraft missiles, the Libyan Air Force ceased to be a significant factor in the war in March 2011. The United Kingdom’s Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell declared March 23 that the Libyan Air Force “no longer exists as a fighting force” and that NATO forces now flew over Libyan airspace “with impunity.”

Despite Libya being awash in anti-aircraft missiles, not many were fired at NATO aircraft:
A senior U.S. military officer who follows Libya closely said it was puzzling that there had been so few documented instances in which Libyan loyalist troops launched shoulder-fired missiles at NATO aircraft.

“I’m not sure what that means,” the officer said. “Fewer systems than we thought? Systems are inoperable? Few in Libya know how to operate them?”  Throughout the war, Qaddafi’s regime believed some outside force was supplying the rebels with anti-aircraft weapons. On September 2, 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s Charles Levinson and Margaret Coker managed to obtain the regime’s intelligence files about the rebellion, recovered from the office of Libya’s spy chief and two other security agencies.

By April, the war was expanding and so was the sense of panic inside Tripoli. Mr. Senussi’s [the Libyan spy chief] office did get apparently credible information, but the news was ominous. The reports suggested that the rebels were exploiting the country’s porous southern borders to receive arms and aid.   One memo contained intercepted phone calls between military commanders in Chad who reported Qatari weapons convoys approaching Libya’s southern border with Sudan, apparently intended for anti-[Qaddafi] forces. Another intelligence memo, dated April 4, warned that French weapons, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles and Milan antitank rockets, were making their way to Libyan rebels via Sudan.

French officials declined to comment on the document’s claims. Qatari officials didn’t return email requests for comment.  These Qatari weapons convoys were, in fact approved by the Obama administration, according to the New York Times:
The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats. . . .
The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. They were “more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam” than the main rebel alliance in Libya, said a former Defense Department official.
The Times article stated that “no evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris to the Benghazi attack,” although it’s not clear how anyone could determine that for certain without precise, accurate accounts of the Qatari weapons and the weapons used in the Benghazi attack.
The Obama administration’s approval of these arms shipments almost certainly violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970, adopted February 26, 2011, which required all member states to “prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer” of weapons to any party in Libya.
Qaddafi’s forces sought to restock their supply of these missiles during the conflict. In mid July 2011, his regime met with Chinese officials, seeking to purchase $200 million worth of sophisticated weapons, including portable surface-to-air missiles.

Some number of the missiles, perhaps a significant portion, left the country. At least one foreign-intelligence source stated that branches of al-Qaeda were obtaining surface-to-air missiles in Libya. In April 2011, Reuters quoted an Algerian security official who claimed that al-Qaeda was smuggling missiles out of Libya:
The official said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks left eastern Libya, crossed into Chad and then guy, and from there into northern Mali where in the past few days it delivered a cargo of weapons . . . al Qaeda’s north African wing, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired from Libya Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the NATO designation SAM-7.

In October 2011, a Turkish journalist reported that Egyptian security forces had impeded an effort to smuggle Libyan SA-7 missiles through tunnels leading to the Gaza Strip, and expressed fears that the Kurdish separatist group was attempting to obtain them. Shoulder-mounted missiles were also leaving Libya and ending up in the hands of Somali pirates, according to an April 2012 report:
“We found that Libyan weapons are being sold in what is the world’s biggest black market for illegal gun smugglers, and Somali pirates are among those buying from sellers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries,” said Judith van der Merwe, of the Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism.  “We believe our information is credible and know that some of the pirates have acquired ship mines, as well as Stinger and other shoulder-held missile launchers,” Van der Merwe told Reuters on the sidelines of an Indian Ocean naval conference.

By early September 2011, experts on the ground were concluding that “hundreds, if not thousands of surface-to-air missiles were missing,” and Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director, was telling foreign correspondents that “if these weapons fall into the wrong hands, all of North Africa will be a no-fly zone.”  By late September, the highest levels of the U.S. government began focusing on the disappearing missiles and the threat they presented. Brian Ross of ABC News:
The White House announced today it planned to expand a program to secure and destroy Libya’s huge stockpile of dangerous surface-to-air missiles, following an ABC News report that large numbers of them continue to be stolen from unguarded military warehouses.

Currently the U.S. State Department has one official on the ground in Libya, as well as five contractors who specialize in “explosive ordinance disposal”, all working with the rebel Transitional National Council to find the looted missiles, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters.

On October 23, 2011, Con Coughlin of the Daily Telegraph reported that the Central Intelligence Agency was on the ground in Libya in the effort to recover the missiles:
Since [Qaddafi]’s regime fell in late August teams of CIA officers, supported by other intelligence services such as Britain’s MI6, have been scouring Libya in search of the missing missiles. Their main target is the thousands of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles [Qaddafi] bought from Moscow during the past decade which, were they to fall into the wrong hands, would pose a massive security risk.

We now know that a significant portion of the U.S. presence in Benghazi was CIA employees. Reuters quoted unidentified government officials who said the annex’s mission was “collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles.”

In February 2012, Andrew Shapiro, then assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, declared in a speech that the U.S. and the new Libyan government had recovered and secured “approximately 5,000” anti-aircraft missiles. In May 2012, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius detailed the claims of two former CIA counterterrorism officers that about 800 of the missiles were in guy, which borders Libya to the southwest, in the hands of an African jihadist group called Boko Haram that’s based in Nigeria.

There is significant reason to believe that both Stevens and the CIA personnel in Benghazi were focused on recovering the missiles in the days leading up to his death on September 11.
After the Benghazi attack, there were public reports of Libyan arms, including these types of anti-aircraft missiles, being smuggled to the Syrian resistance fighting Bashar Assad’s regime.

On September 14, 2012, three days after Stevens was killed, Sheera Frenkel, a correspondent for the Times of London, reported from Antakya, Turkey:
A Libyan ship carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria since the uprising began has docked in Turkey and most of its cargo is making its way to rebels on the front lines, The Times has learnt.

Among more than 400 tonnes of cargo the vessel was carrying were SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which Syrian sources said could be a game-changer for the rebels.

Frenkel’s report identified the ship’s captain as “Omar Mousaeeb, a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organisation called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support, which is supporting the Syrian uprising.” This was not the first attempt to ship arms from Libya to the Syrian rebels, apparently: In late April, Lebanese authorities seized a large consignment of Libyan weapons, including RPGs and heavy ammunition, from a ship intercepted in the Mediterranean. The ship was attempting to reach the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, a largely Sunni city seen as supportive of the Syrian rebellion against President Assad.

In October 17, 2012, about one month after the ship docked in Turkey, Reuters reported, “Amateur footage of rebels using shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles have emerged in recent days.” About a week later, Russia’s top military officer, accused the United States of providing American-made Stinger missiles to the Syrian rebels, a charge the Pentagon and State Department denied.
The American government may not have directed the smuggling of weapons from Libya to Syria through Turkey — but there is evidence to suggest they were aware of it.

In June 2012, the New York Times’ Eric Schmitt reported that the CIA had personnel in Syria monitoring, and perhaps assisting, the Syrian rebels’ efforts to obtain weapons in Turkey:
A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said.  A March 2013 follow-up report by Schmitt and C. J. Chivers detailed the CIA’s assistance to Arab governments’ efforts to help Syria’s rebels: “The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year.” The vast majority of the cargo flights of arms and equipment went through Esenboga Airport near Ankara, Turkey.

Was Chris Stevens’s “mission in Benghazi” to buy back weapons? Stevens’s planned agenda for his scheduled five-day stay in Benghazi, according to GQ, included plans to “rechristen the U.S. managed compound ‘an American Space,’ offering local Libyans English lessons and Internet access and show films and stock a library.”

But his final act as ambassador, on the early evening of September 11, 2012, was a meeting with Ali Sait Akin, the Turkish consul general in Benghazi.  For what it’s worth, the Turkish diplomat denies that he discussed arms transfers with Stevens. He told syndicated columnist Diana West that they didn’t talk about “weaponry from the [Qaddafi] stockpiles and where they might be going; the Libyan flagged vessel al-Entisaar which was received in the port of Iskenderun on September 6, 2012; the conflict in Syria and how the opposition to President Assad could be supported by the US and Turkey.”

During former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Rand Paul asked her if the U.S. was involved in any way in the transfer of weapons from Libya to Turkey.  “To Turkey? . . . Nobody’s ever raised that with me,” Clinton responded. When Paul asked whether the annex, the installation to which Americans fled on the night of the Benghazi attack, was involved, she said, “Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I do not know.”

Since last autumn, Syria’s rebels have grown bolder in their use of anti-aircraft weapons in that country’s civil war. In late March, Syrian rebels claimed they shot down an Iranian plane landing at Damascus airport that was suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition for the Syrian government. In late April, Russia’s Interfax news agency claimed that two rockets were fired at a Russian charter plane as it flew over Syria. The plane flew from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to Kazan in Tartarstan, Russia, with 200 passengers on board.

On May 8, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the rebels had shot down a fighter jet.  These published reports indicate a sequence of events less incendiary than the one described by Simon’s sources, but still troubling:
During the Libyan civil war, the United States government at least tacitly supported the Qatari effort to arm the rebels, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo. The Obama administration later learned that the weapons were going to Islamists, and acknowledged that the postwar situation of unguarded stockpiles presented an enormous security threat to the region. The CIA was the centerpiece of an effort to recover these weapons, and that was indeed a major component of what the agency was doing in Benghazi in September 2012, in part using the State Department’s facilities. During this time, a large number of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, were leaving Libya and arriving in Turkey en route to Syrian rebels — and the CIA had personnel in both countries assigned to monitor and assist the arms shipments.

In his February 2012 speech discussing the effort to recover the anti-aircraft missiles in Libya, Assistant Secretary Shapiro made an unnerving concession: “How many are still missing? The frank answer is we don’t know and probably never will.”  That frank answer probably applies to the weapons flowing into Syria, too.

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.
Secret security arrangement between CIA and State Department at heart of Benghazi controversy
Jorge Benitez | November 02, 2012

From Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, and Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal: Nearly eight weeks after the attacks, a complete accounting hasn't emerged in public view. The brunt of the public criticism for security lapses has so far been directed at the State Department, rather than the CIA, which, by design, operates largely in the shadows. Critics in Congress say the CIA has used secrecy in part to shield itself from blame—a charge officials close to the agency deny.

This account of the CIA presence in Benghazi sheds new light on the events, and how the essentially covert nature of the U.S. operations there created confusion. Congressional investigators say it appears that the CIA and State Department weren't on the same page about their respective roles on security, underlining the rift between agencies over taking responsibility and raising questions about whether the security arrangement in Benghazi was flawed.

The CIA's secret role helps explain why security appeared inadequate at the U.S. diplomatic facility. State Department officials believed that responsibility was set to be shouldered in part by CIA personnel in the city through a series of secret agreements that even some officials in Washington didn't know about.

It also explains why the consulate was abandoned to looters for weeks afterward while U.S. efforts focused on securing the more important CIA quarters. Officials say it is unclear whether the militants knew about the CIA presence or stumbled upon the facility by following Americans there after the attack on the consulate. . . .

Protecting the CIA annex was a roughly 10-man security force. The State Department thought it had a formal agreement with the CIA that called for that force to be used in emergencies to bolster security for the consulate.

The State Department has been criticized by lawmakers and others for failing to provide adequate security for its ambassador, especially in light of an attack there in June and after other violence prompted the U.K. to pull out of the city. In October, Mrs. Clinton took responsibility for any security lapses.

Among U.S. diplomatic officials in Libya, the nearby CIA force and the secret agreement allayed concerns about security levels.  "They were the cavalry," a senior U.S. official said of the CIA team, adding that CIA's backup security was an important factor in State's decision to maintain a consulate there.  In the months leading up to the attack, Mr. Stevens and others sent a series of diplomatic messages to the administration warning that security in Benghazi was deteriorating. Nevertheless, security at the consulate wasn't beefed up and Mr. Stevens's movements weren't restricted, according to congressional investigators.

On the night of the attack, the consulate, on a 13-acre property, was protected by five American diplomatic security officers inside the walls, supported by a small group of armed Libyans outside. The CIA's security force at the annex sometimes provided backup security for the ambassador when he traveled outside the consulate.

Outside of Tripoli and Benghazi, the nature of the security relationship between the consulate and the annex wasn't widely known, and details about that arrangement are still the subject of dispute. The night of the attack, many top officials at the State Department in Washington weren't initially aware that the annex had a security force that answered to the CIA and provided backup security for the consulate. . . .

The emphasis on security at the CIA annex was underscored the day after the attack. With all U.S. personnel evacuated, the CIA appears to have dispatched local Libyan agents to the annex to destroy any sensitive documents and equipment there, even as the consulate compound remained unguarded and exposed to looters and curiosity seekers for weeks, officials said. Documents, including the ambassador's journal, were taken from the consulate site, and the site proved of little value when Federal Bureau of Investigation agents finally arrived weeks later to investigate.

U.S. officials said they prioritized securing the annex because many more people worked there and they were doing sensitive work, while the consulate, by design, had no classified documents. The American contractor said the top priority was destroying sensitive documents.

In the aftermath of the assault, questions have been raised within the administration and on Capitol Hill about Mr. Petraeus's role in responding to the attack. On Oct. 10, lawmakers grilled senior State Department officials about the attack. At one point, lawmakers and officials alluded for the first time to the existence of the CIA facility. That set off alarms at the agency and at the State Department because that information was classified. . . .

In ensuing weeks, tensions over the matter spread to the FBI and Capitol Hill. The FBI didn't initially get to review surveillance footage taken at the compound because officials say it was being analyzed by the CIA. The CIA, in turn, wasn't able to immediately get copies of FBI witness interviews, delaying the agency's analysis of what happened outside the consulate and at the annex.

A senior congressional investigator said the secrecy has made it harder to figure out what errors were made, because classification restrictions have allowed the CIA to avoid public and congressional scrutiny for its conduct. Information about the CIA's role has largely been limited to congressional intelligence committees, which are reviewing the attacks but have not launched investigations into them.

Panetta: US 'certainly had forces in place' that could have reached Americans under attack in Benghazi
Jorge Benitez | November 02, 2012

From Leon Panetta, Department of Defense: Excerpt from a Pentagon press conference by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey.
Q: Can I follow up on that? One of the reasons we've heard that there wasn't a more robust response right away is that there wasn't a clear intelligence picture over Benghazi, to give you the idea of where to put what forces.

But when there was, in fact, a drone over the CIA annex and there were intelligence officials fighting inside the annex, I guess the big question is, with those two combined assets, why there wasn't a clear intelligence picture that would have given you what you needed to make some moves, for instance, flying, you know, F-16s over the area to disperse fighters or -- or dropping more special forces in.
SEC. PANETTA: You know, let me -- let me speak to that, because I'm sure there's going to be -- there's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on here.

We quickly responded, as General Dempsey said, in terms of deploying forces to the region. We had FAST platoons in the region. We had ships that we had deployed off of Libya. And we were prepared to respond to any contingency and certainly had forces in place to do that.

But -- but the basic principle here -- basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place. And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, General Ham, General Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.

Are Islamist Extremists Fighting Among Libya’s Rebels?
Apr 01, 2011
Author: Alison Pargeter
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point

As the crisis in Libya continues, the international media and some Western policymakers have speculated about the dangers of an al-Qa`ida presence in the country. Stark warnings have been issued about the West’s support for opposition forces that include some militants who fought against Western forces in Iraq. No less forceful on this topic has been the Mu`ammar Qadhafi regime itself, which since the crisis started has been at pains to dismiss the uprising as the work of al-Qa`ida. The regime went as far as to claim that an Islamic emirate had been established in the eastern city of Derna that was run by former associates of Usama bin Ladin.

Such allegations on the part of the regime are clearly propaganda efforts aimed at scaring not only the international community, but also those in western Libya about what might come next if Qadhafi is overthrown.[1] Indeed, the uprisings in the east were non-ideological in nature. Like the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, they drew a broad cross-section of the population united by a shared desire to oust a dictator who has ruled them with an iron fist for the past four decades.[2] Moreover, the rebels’ Interim Transitional National Council’s (ITNC) “Vision for the Future of Libya” that was issued on March 29 promotes a civil liberal democratic state.[3]

Nevertheless, this concern should not be disregarded completely. Eastern Libya has traditionally been the primary center of the country’s Islamist opposition currents and where cells of young Islamist militants are located. It is also where scores of young Libyan men left to join the jihad in Iraq. Given that the regime is still struggling for survival and that Libya looks unlikely to return to any sort of normality soon, the issue of Islamism in a future Libyan scenario cannot be dismissed. A more sober and nuanced look at the various Islamist forces operating in the east, however, demonstrates that the picture is far less black and white than it first might appear.

The Militants
Libya’s Islamist scene currently comprises a mixed group of actors. Given the Qadhafi regime’s complete intolerance to any form of political activity outside of that sanctioned by the state, the country’s Islamists have been in no position in recent years to organize themselves into structured movements or groups.[4] The bulk of those associated with Islamic extremism in Libya are former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a movement that was established in the camps of Afghanistan in 1990 that sought to overthrow the “Pharaoh Qadhafi.” The group was discovered by the regime in 1995 and was subsequently crushed, forcing those members who escaped capture to flee, turning the LIFG primarily into a movement in exile. In 2007, however, Qadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam entered into a regime-supported dialogue with the leadership of the LIFG who were in prison in Tripoli. After protracted negotiations, the LIFG agreed to renounce violence, and in August 2009 they issued a set of revisions in which they declared that it was not legitimate to take up arms against the state. In return, they were freed from prison in a series of mass clemencies, the last of which occurred just two days before the current uprising and included some key figures such as the LIFG’s first amir, Muftah Mabrouk al-Wadi as well as the brother of senior al-Qa`ida operative Abu Yahya al-Libi, Abd al-Wahhab Muhammad Qaid. Most of these freed prisoners, who numbered more than 400, returned to their homes in the east.

This deradicalization initiative was in part a publicity stunt, aimed at bolstering Saif al-Islam’s credibility in the West, as well as in eastern Libya. The prisoners, for example, were not simply released once they agreed to renounce violence, but instead the regime insisted the group issue a high-profile set of doctrinal revisions that were widely publicized in the region and beyond. The regime put enormous pressure on the prisoners to agree to the revisions. It brought the families of some LIFG members into the prison as a means of persuading them, and the government also used bribery, offering to provide their families with cars and other perks if they signed up to the revisions.[5] Saif al-Islam made the most of the publicity opportunities after the releases, inviting foreign journalists to Libya to cover the issue and more importantly bringing Salafist shaykhs, such as Shaykh Salman al-Awda, to Libya where they, along with the LIFG leadership, publicly lauded the revisions. Despite the publicity aspect, it does appear that the majority of prisoners were convinced about the ideological shift taken by the LIFG’s leadership.[6] Many had spent long harsh years in prison; having had time to mature, they came to the conclusion that violence was not the way forward. As such, the regime successfully neutralized what was left of the movement.

It is not yet clear whether these former LIFG prisoners are once again operating as a group on the side of the rebels. There is little evidence to suggest that this is the case. Some LIFG elements have, however, established their own new movement. Two days before the Libyan protests began, a group of former LIFG members based mainly in the United Kingdom announced that they had established the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change. The group, whose politburo remains in London, has made it abundantly clear that it wishes to participate in the political process and there is every possibility that it will do so once the situation inside the country develops. The degree to which this group has shifted its ideological agenda was demonstrated by a statement issued in February where it called for foreign intervention to help remove Qadhafi from power, despite the fact that it was “aware of the sensitivity of this call and the desire of our people not to see any foreign interference on Libyan soil.”[7] It is not yet clear whether the group has any following inside Libya itself. If it does, it is clear that those involved are seeking to assert themselves politically rather than militarily.

On an individual basis, it is a certainty that some former LIFG members are fighting with the rebels. One former LIFG fighter, Khalid al-Tagdi, was killed on March 2 in Brega while fighting against regime forces.[8] Similarly, in mid-April, another senior LIFG military commander, Abdelmonem Mukhtar, known as Ourwa, was killed after he was ambushed by Qadhafi forces on the road between Ajdabiya and Brega. Mukhtar had been imprisoned in Iran until the end of 2010 and returned to Libya when the uprisings began where he was made commander of the 160-strong Omar al-Mukhtar rebel battalion.

Given the dearth of well-trained personnel and the amateur nature of the rebel forces, individuals with combat experience are clearly a precious asset to the opposition. These former LIFG elements are fighting alongside other rebels and have shown no indication to separate themselves or to try to claim the revolution as their own. As Anis Sharif, a member of the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change’s politburo, rightly observed, “it is the revolution of the Libyan people. It is not the revolution of political parties, or organisations, or Islamists or fundamentalists.”[9] It seems that these former militants are aware that what they had dreamed of for so many years, namely rising up against the regime, was ultimately achieved by ordinary Libyans who, like their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, had no ideological affiliation.[10]

There is also the concern that released LIFG members could be planning to resume extremist militancy in the future. Certain elements within the Libyan security services who were largely hostile to the deradicalization initiative were anxious that some of those released would create trouble.[11] In fact, according to sources in Tripoli, there were indications that a handful had resorted to their old ways following their release.[12] While the revision process was led by the LIFG, there were elements from other militant groups, such as the Islamic Martyrs Brigade, making it impossible to ascertain how many released militants truly believed in renouncing violence. Were they simply coerced into agreeing with the revisions to secure their release from prison? Moreover, as late as June 2010 there were still hardcore elements in the Abu Slim prison who rejected the revisions. The regime was still trying to convince them, using a carrot and stick approach and regularly bringing released LIFG leaders back into the prison, to continue the dialogue.[13] It is not clear whether any of these individuals were freed in the regime’s final tranche of releases that it sanctioned just prior to the uprising in a desperate attempt to placate the east. It seems, however, that these more militant elements are not yet acting as any organized group and as such their influence remains limited for the time being.

Jihad in Iraq and Jihad in Libya
Many observers have correctly pointed to the fact that young Libyans have made up a disproportionately high number of recruits to the Iraqi jihad.[14] It is true that Libyans, predominantly from the east, have been willing to sacrifice themselves in Iraq. This should not be confused, however, with membership of or even support for the transnational aims and aspirations of al-Qa`ida. Going to fight against an occupying force in a Muslim land is very different from supporting Bin Ladin’s global ambitions or even taking up arms against one’s own government. Even more “moderate” Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood are also explicit that fighting to defend a Muslim land when it is under attack from foreign forces is a religious duty. In fact, there is widespread feeling across the Arab world that fighting against occupying troops in a Muslim country is a legitimate cause. It is for this reason that the Libyan state media always described the insurgency in Iraq as the “resistance” and regularly lauded U.S. military casualties. One cannot conclude that all the young men in Libya who fought in Iraq were motivated by al-Qa`ida or shared its desire to target the “far enemy.” Indeed, some may simply have ended up being recruited by al-Qa`ida once in Iraq.
It is also true that elements with links to al-Qa`ida may have helped facilitate networks sending young men to Iraq. The current rebel military coordinator in Derna, Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, for example, has openly admitted that he recruited 25 young men in Derna to join the Iraqi jihad, some of whom are now fighting on the front lines in Ajdabiya.[15]

 Al-Hasadi, a history teacher, had fought in Afghanistan but was captured by U.S. forces in 2002 and handed over to Libya where he continued to be monitored by the security services. He was imprisoned twice, once following a shoot-out with the regime where he was detained from 2004-2007 and again in 2008 for 45 days for “conspiring to overthrow the regime.” Nevertheless, al-Hasadi, who was a senior member of the LIFG, maintains that he was always against the attacks of 9/11 and, like so many militants in Afghanistan at the time, rejected the attack. He declared, “I am with fighting people on the battlefield, not with killing civilians in any place.”[16] This approach is entirely consistent with that taken by the LIFG.

In fact, it should be remembered that the LIFG always had a specifically nationalist agenda. Aside from a small rump group in the tribal areas of Pakistan led by Abu Laith al-Libi (who was killed in January 2008) that allied itself with al-Qa`ida when the rest of the group entered into dialogue with the regime, the LIFG was never comfortable with Bin Ladin’s more globalized agenda and always focused its efforts on toppling Qadhafi. During a series of meetings in April and May 2000, the LIFG asked Bin Ladin to stop using Afghanistan as a base from which to launch attacks against the United States and tried to convince him that he should not violate the laws or policies of the Taliban, under whose protection they were all living, by launching attacks that risked bringing retribution.[17] Despite assertions by Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2007 that the LIFG had joined al-Qa`ida’s ranks, the group never joined Bin Ladin’s organization, preferring to give loyalty to Mullah Omar of the Taliban.[18] As former LIFG veteran Noman Benotman declared, “We refused right from the beginning to be absorbed into this group because that would make us lose our ability to move freely and independently in Libya.”[19] As such, the LIFG has always clung to its independence and nationalist agenda.

A Role for Al-Qa`ida?
Of course, there are likely to be individual militant elements or small groups of militants in Libya who are open to the terrorist ideology of al-Qa`ida. The regime was anxious about the presence of such elements. Sources in Tripoli argue that one reason why the Qadhafi regime was so keen to enter into dialogue with the LIFG was because it was becoming increasingly concerned about the younger generation in the east in particular, some of whom appeared to be adopting more militant ideas (although not necessarily those of al-Qa`ida).[20] While it was engaging in dialogue with the LIFG, the regime continued to arrest and imprison young Libyans suspected of militancy.[21]

There have also been reports during the past few years of a handful of Libyans who have traveled to Algeria to train with al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), although these reports are unconfirmed. AQIM has sought to capitalize on the situation in Libya. If websites purporting to be AQIM are to be believed, its leader Abu Mus`ab `Abd al-Wadud has called for jihad in Libya not only against Qadhafi, but also against the West, especially the United States “as the foreign military intervention is a new crusader war.”[22]

Yet at this stage in the battle such comments are clearly out of tune with the feeling inside Libya and are more likely to alienate rather than attract young Libyans, including those of a militant bent. Similarly, other jihadist elements have misread the situation and the degree to which Libyans of all persuasions are united in the fight against Qadhafi. One jihadist forum declared this month that Libyan jihadists should choose an amir and distinguish themselves from the “people of al-Jahiliya (pre-Islamic ignorance) and the worshippers of democracy” by fighting under a clear Islamic banner.[23] It advised them to “acquire and store weapons in safe places that are only known to people you trust and who are on the straight path. Never hand over your weapons to anyone from the People’s Committees or Military Committees or Civilians Committees (bodies set up by the opposition).”[24] Given the desperate situation of those on the front lines, such advice is likely unwelcome. So far, there has been no indication of any desire by Libyan Islamist militants to separate themselves from the other rebel forces, and they are subsumed in the greater struggle against the Qadhafi regime.

Future Challenges
It is difficult to predict whether more militant elements will assert themselves in Libya in the longer term. Much will depend on how the situation develops on the ground. This is particularly true in relation to the international community’s role. Islamist elements in Libya are uneasy about foreign military intervention although they seem to accept it, viewing it as a necessary evil. This would change, however, if foreign ground troops are deployed. The presence of foreign forces on Libyan soil would give those with a more militant agenda a focus, and they may try to turn their attention to fighting against a foreign presence. As Abdelkarim al-Hasadi declared, “We don’t want the West to come to us. We need weapons and to impose a no-fly zone so military forces will be balanced. If there are foreign forces on Libyan soil we will fight them before we will fight Qadhafi.”[25]

Although the LIFG was explicit in the revisions that it was wrong to take up arms against the state, there was no condemnation of fighting jihad against a foreign invader on Muslim soil. A Western presence would likely create sufficient discontent among the population into which these elements could tap. Moreover, it would likely attract militants from other parts of the world who would see it as their duty to protect Libyans from “crusader forces.”

Furthermore, if the current stalemate drags on, which looks increasingly likely, or if the transition process post-Qadhafi results in chaos, then it is possible that militant forces could try to organize and assert themselves in their own local areas. These forces would have a popular base of support given that they have some sympathy in the east. They will, however, be up against far more influential players such as tribal shaykhs who carry more weight, particularly in the east, which has remained far more tribal in nature than the west. The danger could be if certain tribes, feeling that they have not been properly compensated in the post-Qadhafi era, choose to ally themselves with militant elements, although this appears to be an unlikely prospect.

These militants would also have to compete with other Islamist players. Non-violent Salafist currents have been quietly growing in Libya, especially among the youth, as they have elsewhere in the region. It is likely that free from the restrictions of the Qadhafi regime, such currents will expand and flourish. In addition, there is another group that has emerged in the east that is likely to be far more significant than the jihadist elements. This group comprises a handful of Islamic scholars led by Dr. Ali al-Salabi, who was brought in by Saif al-Islam to negotiate the LIFG prisoner dialogue. Other members include Shaykh Salim Abdelsalam al-Sheikhi, who returned to Libya from the United Kingdom during the uprisings, and Shaykh Ismail Mohamed al-Kraetly as well as other members of the traditional religious establishment in Libya who have been getting bolder in their challenges to the regime in recent months. This group broadly follows the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, although the exact nature of its links to the movement is not clear.

While this group initially declared that supporting the Western military intervention was “tantamount to treason,” it has publicly given its support to the ITNC and its political vision for a civil state. It has, however, been overtly critical of the council in the Arab media and more importantly it has issued its own alternative political vision that is more explicit than that of the ITNC about the role of Islam in the state. The document, the National Charter Project, declares, “People are the source of authority. The state’s religion is Islam and the principle of Islamic Sharia is the source of its legislation.”[26] Crucially, the document also calls for a decentralized Libya. While this group currently has a limited following, these scholars are already well respected and as such they have the potential to become a stronger force in the east in particular. The shaykhs’ more explicit call for a state based upon Islamic law is likely to go down well with some parts of the population.

Nevertheless, the power of these Islamist forces should not be exaggerated. Despite the conservative and religious nature of the east, the revolution is non-ideological in nature. While there may be some public sympathy for these Islamist figures, there appears to be limited public appetite for an Islamist alternative. As such, although militant groups may try to make their presence felt and may find space in which to operate, particularly if the international military intervention escalates, their role should not be overstated.

Alison Pargeter is a Middle East and North Africa analyst who also specializes in issues related to political Islam and radicalization. She has conducted numerous research projects on these topics and has published widely on these issues. Her books include The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe (I.B. Tauris and Pennsylvania University Press, 2008) and The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition (Saqi, 2010).

[1] There has always been a distinct sense of regional identity in Libya. It was only united as a single country at the time of independence in 1951. The division has traditionally been between the main population centers in the west (Tripolitania) and the east (Cyrenaica). The west has a reputation of being more cosmopolitan and open than its eastern counterpart, while the east is known as a bastion of conservatism. The east has also tended to look eastwards to Egypt, not least because many of the tribes there spread across into Egypt’s western deserts.
[2] The protests comprised a cross-section of the Libyan public and included professionals and ordinary Libyans, particularly drawn from the youth.
[3] For more details, see the ITNC website at
[4] This is particularly true following the crackdowns at the end of the mid-1990s when the regime crushed an Islamist rebellion.
[5] Personal interview, Libyan human rights activist, Tripoli, Libya, June 2010.
[6] Personal interview, senior LIFG member released from prison, Tripoli, Libya, June 2010.
[7] “Libya: Islamists Call on Air Force to Bomb Gaddafi,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 23, 2011.
[8] Noman Benotman and James Brandon, “Briefing Paper: The Jihadist Threat in Libya,” Quilliam Foundation, March 24, 2011.
[9] “Libyan Islamist to Al-Sharq al-Awsat: The Libyan People’s Revolution is not that of political parties or organisations or fundamentalists,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, February 21, 2011.
[10] This was evidenced by the slogans of those demonstrating, which simply called for an end to the Qadhafi regime.
[11] Personal interview, Libyan human rights activist, Tripoli, Libya, June 2010.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Personal interview, senior LIFG member released from prison, Tripoli, Libya, June 2010.
[14] Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, Al-Qaida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2008)
[15] “Noi ribelli, islamici e tolleranti,” Il Sole 24 Ore, March 22, 2011.
[16] See
[17] Camille Tawille, Al-Qa’ida wa Akhawatia (London: Saqi Books, 2007).
[18] For details on this dispute, see Alison Pargeter, “LIFG Revisions Unlikely to Reduce Jihadist Violence,” CTC Sentinel 2:10 (2009).
[19] Tawille.
[20] Personal interview, Libyan human rights activist, Tripoli, Libya, June 2010.
[21] Ibid.
[22] For details, see
[23] For details, see
[24] Ibid.
[25] For details, see
[26] For details, see

Islamist Militant Groups in Post-Qadhafi Libya

Author: Alison Pargeter, Feb 20, 2013

In July 2012, Libya held its first national elections since the fall of Mu`ammar Qadhafi. The Libyan people, however, appeared to buck the trend of the Arab Spring by not electing an Islamist[1] parliament. Although Islamists are present in the newly-elected General National Congress, they are just one force among many competing in the political arena.[2] While Islamists have not succeeded in dominating Libya’s nascent political scene, they have come to represent an ever growing and influential force on the ground. A number of Islamist groups and currents have emerged in the post-Qadhafi era, including those at the extreme end of the spectrum that have taken advantage of central authority weakness by asserting power in their own local areas. This is particularly the case in the east of the country, which has traditionally been associated with Islamist activism.

Given the murky and chaotic nature of Libya’s transition, which has prompted the mushrooming of local power brokers, it is difficult to distinguish between many of the Islamist militant groups and brigades. While some groups, such as the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade or the February 17 Brigade, are operating, nominally at least, within the official structures of the state, others, such as Ansar al-Shari`a,[3] are functioning independently. Despite the fact that the state attempted to dissolve these independent militant brigades following the public protests that erupted in response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012, these groups continue to operate and impose their authority in their communities. This poses particular challenges for Libya as it moves through the transition process.

This article examines the nature of some of the Islamist militant groups active in the east of Libya, including Ansar al-Shari`a, as well as their relationship with the state. It argues that while these militant groups are largely working within the confines of the state, this cooperation could quickly turn to confrontation if the formation of the constitution does not develop the way that they expect.
“By Night We Are Benghazistan”

The growing influence of Islamist militant elements has prompted particular concern among local residents in the east. On December 28, 2012, Benghazi residents staged another demonstration calling for the dissolution of the Islamist militias in the city, holding banners that declared, “By day we are Benghazi, by night we are Benghazistan.”[4]

Authorities suspect that Islamist militant groups are behind the deadly string of night attacks and assassinations that have rocked the east in recent months. The near weekly bombings and assassinations have been aimed almost exclusively at members of the security forces, many of whom defected from Qadhafi’s regime at the time of the revolution.[5] This includes figures such as the former director of Benghazi security, Colonel Faraj Mohammed al-Drissi, who was killed on November 21, 2012.[6] Given the nature of the targets, it is widely assumed that the attacks are the work of Islamist militant forces seeking revenge for the suppression they experienced at the hands of the former regime.

Despite the ongoing violence, the official bodies of the state have been slow to react or to bring the guilty parties to justice. They did, however, arrest Majdi Zwai (also known as Majdi Dhub), a member of the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, on charges of having assassinated al-Drissi.[7] In December 2012, the Shabab Libya channel reported that Zwai had confessed not only to al-Drissi’s killing, but to the killings of other officials.[8] He also reportedly implicated a number of key Islamist militants operating in the region in the assassinations.[9] On December 16, 2012, however, a group of armed gunmen, believed to be from the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, attacked the police station that held Majdi Zwai.[10] Zwai was freed after a three hour gun battle that left four policemen dead.[11]
There is a strong feeling in the east that the central authorities, as well as the Islamist-dominated local authorities, are engaged in a cover-up and are pandering to militant elements.[12] Such suggestions may be exaggerated. The central authorities remain weak and unable to properly project authority. Despite the repeated efforts to bolster the national army, the government and the General National Congress remain largely at the mercy of the militias. This fact was highlighted following the attack on the Ain Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January 2013, when in its rush to secure its borders and energy facilities, the government had to enlist the help of the secular-oriented Zintan militia in the west of the country.[13]

Yet although the ruling authorities may be unable to stem the violence in the east, there is also a reticence on their part to challenge Islamist elements in any substantive or sustained way. Unlike in neighboring countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, where the Arab Spring revolutions were largely peaceful, Islamist militant elements in Libya have a legitimacy born out of the position that they played in the struggle. Islamist militants comprising former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and other radical movements, as well as jihadists who spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, played key roles in the effort to bring down the Qadhafi regime. It was these elements, rather than the country’s new political elite, who made sacrifices to effect change. As a result, these militant elements (like all Libya’s revolutionaries) are imbued with an aura that gives them a special status and autonomy.

Moreover, these militant elements have proved crucial in providing security in the post-Qadhafi era. Given the power vacuum that accompanied the fall of the former regime, the central authorities have had little choice but to rely on Islamist brigades and units to help keep the peace in certain regions, particularly in the east where the national army has a limited presence. This includes not only those brigades that come under the rubric of the official security structure, but also those that are operating independently. It was notable, for example, that following the attempted dissolution of all Islamist militant brigades in September 2012, staff at the Jala’a Hospital in Benghazi demanded that Ansar al-Shari`a be permitted to continue operating as their security force.[14] One doctor at the hospital told journalists that security provided by Ansar al-Shari`a was better than what was currently available.[15]

Charitable Works
In addition to the role they played in the revolution, Islamist militant groups have become part of the fabric of Libyan society in other ways as well.

Unlike groups such as al-Qa`ida, many of these radicals are not necessarily regarded as completely alien or antithetical to the local culture. As the Washington Post recently observed, “Ansar al-Shari`a is edging back into society, and many of Benghazi’s residents now say they want it here.”[16] Indeed, Libyan government spokesman Essam al-Zubeir explained, “The people attacked Ansar al-Sharia a few months ago because they were angry. But now they’re asking them to come back because there is no police and no real military…Until the country is able to rebuild the police and military, the people prefer to be protected by their own people.”[17]

Furthermore, while some of these groups have indulged in the destruction of a number of Sufi shrines as well as cemeteries in the name of eliminating any sign of polytheism, they have so far largely refrained from takfir, the practice of excommunicating fellow Muslims. Rather, these groups have responded to the changing political environment by trying to demonstrate their usefulness to society and to spread their rigid ideas through charitable works.[18] There are elements still engaged in jihad, and these groups clearly reject democracy as an ungodly and Western concept, yet for the most part they are demonstrating a willingness to work with the state rather than against it, at least at this time.
This is particularly the case with Ansar al-Shari`a,[19] which in line with the recent teachings of Abu Mundhir al-Shanqiti, the Mauritanian preacher who serves as a spiritual reference for many extremists, has been focusing its efforts on charitable works. Much in the style of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar al-Shari`a members now provide social services such as welfare support, cleaning and repairing roads, and handing out alms during Ramadan.[20]

Ansar al-Shari`a has come out into the open and is taking advantage of the lack of security to assert its authority in the Hay Shabia (popular neighborhoods) in the country’s eastern cities. It was even reported in January 2013 that Ansar al-Shari`a had established its own “security gate” at Quwarsha at the western entrance to Benghazi, which, according to the group’s leader, Mohammed Ali al-Zahawi, was erected not only to assist with security, but also to carry out health checks on citizens to ensure that disease was not being brought into the city.[21]

Part of the reason for this shift away from jihad and toward public works is related to the upcoming battle for the constitution. While there is a broad consensus in Libya that Shari`a will be the primary source of legislation, there are strong differences of opinion over the extent to which Islamic law should be implemented. There are some Libyans, including supporters of the country’s more liberal political currents, who want Shari`a to be one source of legislation, but who are against it being implemented in its fullest sense.[22] The Islamist militant groups, on the other hand, are pushing for Shari`a to be instituted in the constitution in its entirety. At a meeting in October 2012, for example, hundreds of supporters of Ansar al-Shari`a and other radical currents came together at the Ansar Mosque in Benghazi to establish the Islamic Assembly for Shari`a, an organization aimed at “activating the rule of Allah so it becomes a visible presence in the country.”[23]

As Libyan Islamist scholar Salim al-Sheikhi described, the Islamist militant groups are not waging war against the state but instead are waiting to see how the constitution develops.[24] For al-Sheikhi, the call by these militants for the full implementation of Shari`a is “a just demand because they are the ones who led a large part of the fighting. We don’t need to treat them with less loyalty.”[25]
Yet if developments do not proceed the way that the Islamist militant groups expect, and if Shari`a is not implemented in full, then these elements may take violent action to alter the course of events. They may decide to declare jihad against the state to replace what they deem to be a Westernized political system with an Islamic one. Given the power that these groups have been able to amass since the toppling of the former regime, such an outcome could prove disastrous for the new Libya and its transition to a functioning democratic state.

Sympathy Within the State
The development of Libya’s legal framework could become even more complicated given that the official religious establishment, as well as certain elements within the state, shares with the militants the same uncompromising view of the constitution. The influential Dar al-Ifta (Fatwa House), the highest religious authority in Libya, issued a statement at the end of November 2012 stipulating that not only should Shari`a be the source of legislation, but that any ruling that goes against Shari`a should be considered “null and void.”[26] The statement also declared that the article in the constitution dealing with Shari`a is not something that can be put to the people in a referendum because the ruling of Allah stands above that of the people.[27] Likewise, in December, Ghaith al-Fakhry, the deputy to Libya’s grand mufti, Shaykh Sadeq al-Ghariani, declared, “The Libyan state should stand on two pillars: the constitution that establishes Allah’s rule and the just ruler who will apply the constitution.”[28]

Therefore, the views of the official religious establishment on the constitution are close to those of the Islamist militant groups. The religious establishment has displayed a strong degree of sympathy for these militant elements, even lobbying the government on their behalf. At the government’s first formal cabinet meeting held in November 2012, al-Ghariani urged Libya’s new rulers to bring Islamist militants into the fold by acceding to their demands. The mufti declared that Libya did not possess “any groups that we should be scared of,” adding that “if we can give them what they want, such as the application of Shari`a law, but if we can do it by degrees, [then] we can bring them to our side…We should bring them to our side with good words and promises that we will do what they want, but in stages.”[29] Similarly, al-Ghariani issued a fatwa against participating in the Benghazi protests in December 2012 that called for the dissolution of the country’s Islamist militant groups.[30]

In fact, January 2013 saw a major union of parts of the establishment and militant groups in the east. On January 4-5, the local Benghazi council, the Libyan Association for Mosque Speakers and Preachers, and the Warriors’ Affairs Committee organized a special security conference for the east.[31] Local security bodies such as the Benghazi Security Directorate and the Benghazi intelligence services attended the meeting, as well as the various brigades that come under the interior and defense ministries, including those with an Islamist orientation. A number of militant brigades also attended, including Ansar al-Shari`a and the Abu Slim Martyrs Brigade. The participants issued a statement at the end of the conference, which declared that the implementation of Shari`a was not up for debate and that the grand mufti was above criticism.[32] Even more controversially and in an indication of the extent to which the establishment in the east is sympathetic to the militant brigades, the statement also called for an official investigation into those who had organized the “Save Benghazi Friday” protests against the Islamist militant brigades.[33]

Libya’s Islamist militant groups are not operating in a vacuum. They have become an integral part of the new Libya and have a key stake in the country’s future. Although Libya did not elect an Islamist-dominated government, these militant forces comprise a crucial component of the complex array of forces and powerbrokers that are dominating on the ground in post-Qadhafi Libya. Such elements have always been part and parcel of Libya, however repressed they may have been, and it is little surprise that they are exercising their strength now that the Qadhafi regime is gone.

While these elements appear to be largely working with rather than against the state, their power and legitimacy is such that if they feel their demands are not being met—especially in regard to the formation of the new constitution—they will become a serious force for instability in the longer term.
Alison Pargeter is a Middle East and North Africa analyst who specializes in political Islamist movements. Her books include: Libya: The Rise and Fall of Qadhafi (2012), The Muslim Brotherhood: The Burden of Tradition (2010), and The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe (2008). She is also a Senior Research Associate at Menas Associates, a global consultancy firm.

[1] The term “Islamist” refers to those who engage in political activism articulated through an Islamic discourse. This does not necessarily mean those who espouse violence.
[2] The Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party, for example, secured a significant presence in the congress and is now part of the recently appointed government.
[3] Ansar al-Shari`a (Partisans of Shari`a) has emerged as a significant force in eastern Libya since the toppling of the former regime. It is more of a group or current than a specific militia or brigade, and it has “branches” in both Benghazi and Derna. Like its counterparts in Tunisia and Yemen, its adherents follow an extremist ideology. Although the Libyan group insists it is not linked to al-Qa`ida, its leader in Benghazi, Mohammed Ali al-Zahawi, has expressed his approval of al-Qa`ida’s strategy as well as statements issued by Ayman al-Zawahiri. See “Meeting Mohammad Ali al-Zahawi of Libyan Ansar al-Sharia,” BBC, September 18, 2012.
[4] Libya Focus, January 2013. This demonstration was a follow-up to the “Save Benghazi Friday” protests held after the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in September 2012.
[5] In the week of January 10-17, 2013, for example, two policemen were killed in two separate bomb attacks in Benghazi and there was also an attempted assassination against the Italian consul-general in the city, Guido de Sanctis. See “Curfew Mulled for Benghazi,” Libya Herald, January 17, 2013.
[6] Kareem Fahim, “Security Chief in Benghazi Assassinated, Libyan Says,” New York Times, November 21, 2012.
[7] The Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade is one of the largest Islamist brigades in the east and is believed to number around 1,000 members. It is named after a young engineer, Rafallah al-Sahati, who was killed by the regime on March 19, 2011, during what is known as the battle of Quwarsha in the west of Benghazi. The brigade is based in the Hawari neighborhood of Benghazi and is led by prominent Islamist Ismail al-Salabi. The brigade comes under the authority of the Libyan Defense Ministry. Its headquarters was stormed by protestors after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in September 2012. See Ibrahim Majbari and Dominique Soguel, “Islamists Flee as Angry Libyans Storm Benghazi Compound,” Agence France-Presse, September 22, 2012; “Rafallah Sahati, the Martyr Swore that Qadhafi’s Army Would Never Enter Benghazi,” New Quryna, March 19, 2012.
[8] “An Armed Attack on a Police Station to Free ‘Al-Dhub,’” Libya al-Jadidah, December 17, 2012.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] On December 28, 2012, for example, protesters accused the authorities and the local council of being engaged in a cover-up. See Libya Focus, January 2013.
[13] “Libya Reinforces Border, Oilfields After Algeria Attack,” Reuters, January 23, 2013.
[14] “Benghazi Hospital Staff Want Ansar al-Sharia Back,” Libya Herald, October 4, 2012.
[15] Ibid.
[16] “Islamist Militia Edging Back into Benghazi,” Washington Post, February 17, 2013.
[17] Ibid.
[18] For example, providing welfare support and maintaining public infrastructure.
[19] For a profile of Ansar al-Shari`a, see footnote 3.
[20] “Ansar Shari`a: The Forms of al-Qa`ida’s Response to Democratic Transformation in the Arab World,” al-Hayat, January 3, 2013.
[21] “Ansar al-Shari`a is Setting Up a Laboratory at the Quwarsha Gate,” Press Solidarity, January 20, 2013.
[22] This assessment is based on the author’s personal observations.
[23] “Ansar al-Shari`a in Libya: Putting Weapons Aside in Favor of Political Involvement,” Libya al-Mostakbal, October 14, 2012.
[24] “Religious Affairs in Libya,” al-Jazira, December 18, 2012.
[25] Ibid.
[26] “Libya Dar al-Ifta Council Issues Statement at the End of its Second Meeting,” Libya al-Mostakbal, November 25, 2012.
[27] Ibid.
[28] “Libya’s Mufti: The New Libyan Constitution Must Apply Shari`a Rulings,” al-Watan al-Libyeea, December 22, 2012.
[29] “Government Signals New Era of Transparency as First Formal Cabinet Meeting Opened to the Press,” Libya Herald, November 21, 2012.
[30] “Ghariani Says Libya Faces ‘Many Challenges,’” Libya Herald, December 30, 2012.
[31] “The Final Statement of the Revolutionary Brigades and Security Bodies Conference in Benghazi,” al-Manara, January 6, 2013.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid.

The Attack on the U.S. Consulate: Emerging Signs of Jihadist Sentiment in Libya
Author: Geoff D. Porter,  Sep 26, 2012

On September 11, 2012, armed militants attacked the U.S. Consulate in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four U.S. Foreign Service members, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.[1] The Benghazi incident was preceded by other manifestations of extremist violence in Libya, such as earlier attacks on Western diplomatic facilities and personnel, a violent assault on the Tunisian Consulate in Benghazi in protest of an art exhibit in Tunisia, and the destruction of Sufi shrines throughout the country that Salafists had deemed un-Islamic.[2] These incidents suggest that violence in Libya is evolving from predictable militaristic violence characteristic of guerrilla warfare to now include Salafi-jihadi terrorism.

In contrast to the violence during the revolution against the late Colonel Mu`ammar Qadhafi’s regime, terrorism presents a unique security problem for Libya’s ruling General National Congress (GNC).[3] It is motivated by a different calculus from the previous kinds of violence faced by the National Transitional Council (NTC).[4] With Salafi-jihadi terrorism, the demands of the perpetrators of the violence are more holistic and nihilistic. This evolution presents different problems for the GNC in its efforts to provide security to Libya, and it poses new risks to the United States.

In the absence of an effective state security apparatus, violence in Libya is pervasive and there are a range of violent actors and agendas. The new Libyan state does not exert a monopoly on force and the line between state and non-state actors is blurred. Within this morass of violence, certain trends can be discerned and it is important to parse these groups, to distinguish among them, and anticipate how and when they will use violence. Some groups have used violence to achieve a limited, tangible goal. Others have used violence to settle scores or to demonstrate their relevance to post-Qadhafi Libyan power structures. Finally, and perhaps most concerning, others are beginning to use violence as an expression of their ideological commitment to Salafi-jihadi interpretations of Islam. This article will examine these three trends.

Violence to Achieve a Tangible Goal
Violence that occurred in Libya during the last 10 months was generally motivated by complaints that could be addressed—territory, the informal economy, release of “henchmen” from detention, and revenge against former members of the Qadhafi regime. In a certain sense it was utilitarian, with violence for the sake of achieving a realizable goal. When possible, solutions were negotiated—often within hours.

The Tripoli airport seizure in June 2012 is perhaps the most high profile example of this trend. A militia from the town of Tarhouna seized the airport on June 4, 2012, because one of its leaders went missing.[5] The militia believed that he was kidnapped by another militia, or detained by the NTC.[6] The Tarhouna militia said that it seized the airport to call attention to the problem and to compel the NTC to act more quickly to find the missing leader. The NTC then sent an armed force, including members of the Zintan brigade, to contain the Tarhouna militia, as well as a delegation to begin negotiations regarding their demands.[7] By the end of the day, the Tarhouna militia agreed to return the airport to government authorities and normal operations were restored.

The incident at Tripoli airport fits into a pattern that emerged in Libya since Qadhafi’s fall and is similar to protests at the Arabian Gulf Oil Company headquarters in Benghazi and the attack on former Prime Minister Abdelrahim al-Keib’s offices in Tripoli in May.[8] Different groups appealed to the interim government seeking redress to a grievance or a complaint. The government was unresponsive, either due to lack of capacity or lack of interest, and the aggrieved party took a bold gesture to seize or attack a high profile installation. The action attracted greater attention to the problem and the standoff persisted while negotiations were undertaken. Once a resolution was negotiated, the aggrieved party withdrew. The goal has never appeared to be the permanent seizure of an installation, but rather to use the installation to amplify demands.

Political Violence and Revolutionary Aftershocks
Libya has also witnessed more conventional political violence. Beginning in late July 2012, there have been a string of assassinations in Benghazi. The assassinations targeted former members of Qadhafi’s intelligence services, all of whom were allegedly on a “hit list” that includes up to 1,000 names.[9] Some of the attacks involved car bombs, while in other instances victims were shot. It is not known who carried out the attacks, but it is thought that possibly one or more local militias with grievances against the Qadhafi regime were responsible.

On August 19, 2012, for example, three car bombs exploded in Tripoli. The car bombs targeted administrative offices of the Ministry of the Interior and a building used by the Defense Ministry to detain and interrogate Libyans suspected of being supporters of the former Qadhafi regime.[10] The bombings killed two Libyans.[11] Local officials attributed the attacks to a group of men loyal to Qadhafi. After the attacks, security forces reportedly arrested 32 members of the group, which they said is intent upon sowing discord in the country and determined to discredit the GNC that was sworn in on August 8.[12]

Since then, doubts have emerged about who was genuinely behind the attacks. One theory postulates that they were undertaken by militias that had heretofore been incorporated into the political decision-making process, but now risk being marginalized after the swearing in of the GNC. A second theory is a mutation of the first. It claims that the bombings were an outward manifestation of competition among different security services such as the Supreme Security Council, Libya Shield, the High Security Council, the Tripoli Military Council, and the militias that are embedded within them. The interior minister, Fawzi Abdel Al, is a former leader of the Misrata militia, while the defense minister, Osama al-Juwaili, is the former leader of the Zintan brigade. The Misrata militia and the Zintan brigade are the two most powerful militias in Libya with the ability to deploy throughout the country. Both have vast arsenals at their disposal including tanks, war planes and helicopter gunships. The bombings were possibly a warning to the incoming government not to push them to the side and to continue to include them in the political process.

Elsewhere in the country, groups have clashed for a variety of reasons. In Kufra, political differences resulted in confrontations between the Tubu tribe and supporters of the NTC. The latter suspected that the Tubu were still loyal to Qadhafi whereas the former viewed the NTC supporters as carpetbaggers intent on benefiting from the change in leadership in Tripoli. In Bani Walid, tribes have clashed with one another over control of the lucrative black market that has emerged in the region.  Such violence is typical in a post-revolutionary state as various factions seek to find their place in the emerging power structures.

The Emergence of Salafi-Jihadi Terrorism
Although pervasive and persistent, none of the aforementioned violence has been definitively terrorism. What has now become clear is that among the range of violent non-state actors in Libya, there are Salafi-jihadi groups that harbor deep hostilities toward the United States. The Salafi-jihadi use of violence is different from other violence in Libya, as it is primarily ideological. The trends that led to the U.S. Consulate incident in Benghazi and the eventual deaths of four members of the U.S. diplomatic corps first began to emerge in post-Qadhafi Libya in June 2012, but its antecedents stretch back to the 1990s.

The first manifestation of Salafist violence in Libya was not strictly jihadist. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was formed in 1990 as an Islamist opposition to the Qadhafi regime. Unlike Salafi-jihadis, the LIFG accepted the notion of Libya as a nation-state but it wanted to overthrow Qadhafi and establish Libya as an Islamic state. In 1996, it attempted to assassinate Qadhafi, and in the wake of the attempt’s failure Qadhafi launched a campaign to eradicate the LIFG. Some members of the LIFG were killed, others were imprisoned, and still others fled the country and joined forces with al-Qa`ida in Afghanistan.[13] By the 2000s, the LIFG had no active presence in Libya.

During the Libyan revolution against the Qadhafi regime, former LIFG members who had been released from prison in 2009 following a “deradicalization” program unofficially restarted the LIFG and joined the rebellion. One former LIFG leader in particular, Abdelhakim Belhadj, formed his own militia, the Tripoli Military Council. Although hard figures are unavailable, Belhadj’s group was believed to have as many as 25,000 fighters at its peak during the final days of the revolution.[14]
In 2006, with the seizure of the Sinjar Records in Iraq, it became clear that Salafi-jihadi ideology had grown popular in some parts of the country even though the LIFG was no longer active in Libya. The Sinjar Records indicated that Libyans were the second largest nationality represented among foreign fighters joining al-Qa`ida in Iraq.[15] Almost all of the Libyan fighters in Iraq hailed from eastern Libya, particularly the town of Derna—approximately 180 miles east of Benghazi.[16] Eastern Libya was deliberately and acutely neglected during Qadhafi’s 42-year reign.

While Tripoli boasts the buildings and infrastructure of a state that produces upwards of a million barrels of oil per day, including six-lane highways and high-rise commercial towers, eastern Libya is a patchwork of cities and towns linked by potholed roads, dilapidated buildings, and failing infrastructure. Social services such as hospitals, schooling, and government housing are rundown and in short supply. The resentment in Benghazi toward western Libya is to such an extent that earlier in 2012 a group in Benghazi demanded that eastern Libya become an autonomous region within the sovereign state of Libya. Conditions progressively worsen toward far eastern Libya. A common analogy used to underscore the deplorable conditions in such towns as Derna is “Benghazi is to Tripoli as Derna is to Benghazi.”[17]

The links between al-Qa`ida’s Salafi-jihadi ideology and Libya were further solidified by Abu Yahya al-Libi. Abu Yahya, the brother of an LIFG leader, went to Afghanistan to fight in the jihad against the Soviet Union, but then left the country to study Islamic texts in Mauritania. Upon his return, the Soviet Union had abandoned its campaign in Afghanistan. The esteem in which he was held was augmented by his escape from U.S. custody in Afghanistan in 2005. He eventually joined al-Qa`ida and rose to second-in-command of the group following the killing of Usama bin Laden in May 2011.
In June 2012, a series of bombings and attacks on Western targets in Benghazi revealed Salafi-jihadi terrorism tendencies in Libya. On June 6, militants attacked the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi with an improvised explosive device (IED).[18]

 The IED was ineffectual, damaging the exterior walls of the compound. Four days later on June 10, 2012, a convoy carrying Dominic Asquith, the British ambassador to Libya, was ambushed.[19] A rocket-propelled grenade struck the convoy. The ambassador was unhurt but two bodyguards were injured.[20] During the same period there was an attack on the Tunisian Consulate in Benghazi in response to a controversial art exhibit in Tunisia.[21] The exhibit displayed a panel with dead insects arranged to spell “God” in Arabic.

A group called the Brigade of the Imprisoned Shaykh `Umar `Abd al-Rahman claimed responsibility for the June 6 attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi.[22] The attack was allegedly in retaliation for the U.S. assassination of al-Qa`ida member Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan on June 4.[23] The group recorded a video of the attack in typical jihadist style.[24] Both the rationale behind the attack and the name of the group are clear al-Qa`ida references, but there may not be a direct affiliation with al-Qa`ida as of yet. As with the case of al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), its affiliation with al-Qa`ida only came after months of negotiations between AQIM’s predecessor, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and al-Qa`ida’s central leadership. Some analysts suggest that al-Qa`ida finally allowed the GSPC to become an al-Qa`ida affiliate after the GSPC attacked a vehicle belonging to a U.S. company in front of a U.S.-owned hotel in Algiers.[25] It is possible that the Brigade of the Imprisoned Shaykh `Umar `Abd al-Rahman is following a similar trajectory.

The other attacks—against the UK ambassador, the Tunisian Consulate, and ultimately the U.S. Consulate on September 11, 2012—are suspected of being carried out by a group called Ansar al-Shari`a (Supporters of Islamic Law).[26] Ansar al-Shari`a is a loose appellation for hardline Salafists throughout the Middle East, with groups in Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It not clear whether, or to what extent, the groups are connected. Even in Libya itself, Ansar al-Shari`a has different branches in Benghazi and Derna. The degree of cooperation among the branches is uncertain.[27] Likewise, while Ansar al-Shari`a in Libya may share some of al-Qa`ida’s ideology, until recently there did not appear to be clear links between Ansar al-Shari`a in Libya and al-Qa`ida. Ansar al-Shari`a in Libya denies that it was involved in the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate, although witnesses have said that the gunmen who attacked the consulate facility—armed with grenades and rockets—carried the Ansar al-Shari`a flag.[28]

Investigations into the recent consulate attack also suggest that AQIM may have been involved in the attacks. Multiple newspapers have interviewed U.S. officials saying that they intercepted communications between Ansar al-Shari`a and AQIM on September 11.[29] Other U.S. officials have denied such assertions.[30] It is premature to assume AQIM played a role in the incident.
Implications for Libya’s New Government.

The presence of Salafi-jihadi groups in Libya places the GNC in a difficult position. Like the NTC before it, the GNC does not have an effective military that can be reliably deployed, but unlike the NTC it cannot negotiate with Salafi-jihadis—since they are absolutists and reject negotiation—in the same way that the NTC was generally able to resolve conflicts with regional groups, militias and tribes. Salafi-jihadis not only want to rid Libya of non-Muslim influence like the United States and the United Kingdom—as well as Muslim practices that do not conform to their strict interpretation of Islam, such as the Sufism followed by many Libyans—but also refuse to recognize the notion of a nation-state, the very institution that the GNC is trying to reconstruct in the aftermath of the Qadhafi regime. Although a popular backlash, followed by security force action, swept Ansar al-Shari`a and related groups from their bases on September 21-22, these militants are likely to regroup despite the more hostile operating environment.

There are no readily available statistics regarding how many troops the GNC has under its command. Weapons collection programs that the NTC had discussed at the beginning of its tenure to reduce the threat posed by militias and to reassert the state’s monopoly on force have evaporated. The GNC is unable to reliably deploy forces to halt violence, whether it is of the more pragmatic nature that was endemic during the first 11 months following Qadhafi’s death or the Salafist violence that has appeared more recently. When Salafist groups destroyed a Sufi shrine in downtown Tripoli on August 25, security services under the control of the Interior Ministry were unable or unwilling to stop them.[31]

Salafi-jihadi ideology has roots in Libya that reach back two decades and correspond to the rise of al-Qa`ida as the preeminent Salafi-jihadi organization. The lawlessness in Libya and the impotence of the GNC has allowed Salafi-jihadi violence to emerge once again. The GNC has no choice but to confront Salafi-jihadi sentiment directly. Without a functioning, effective military, however, it will be difficult to do so.

Dr. Geoff D. Porter is the founder and managing director of North Africa Risk Consulting, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in political and security risk in North Africa. Dr. Porter was the Director for Middle East and Africa at a political risk consulting firm. Earlier in his career, Dr. Porter was a professor of Middle East and North Africa History. He is fluent in Arabic (including Modern Standard Arabic and North African dialect) and French.

[1] Details on the attack are still emerging, but initial evidence suggests that the attack was organized; however, information remains contradictory at this point. See Osama Alfitory, “Libyan Attacks Said to be 2-Part Militant Assault,” Associated Press, September 13, 2012; Dina Temple-Raston, “U.S., Libyan Versions Of Consulate Attack Diverge,” National Public Radio, September 20, 2012.
[2] “Libya’s Salafists in Search of Relevance,” Daily Star, September 14, 2012; “Libya Sufi Shrines Attacked ‘By Islamist Hardliners,’” BBC, August 25, 2012.
[3] The General National Congress (GNC) is a result of a political process that was initiated in August 2011 by what was then known as the Transitional National Council (TNC). The TNC was a self-appointed body that had assumed governmental leadership functions for territory within Libya that rebel forces had seized from Qadhafi’s military. With the death of Mu`ammar Qadhafi in October 2011, the TNC organized elections among its members to appoint a government, including a prime minister and a head of what was renamed the National Transitional Council (NTC). The NTC adhered to the political roadmap laid out in August 2011, and after passing an electoral law in February 2012 held national elections for a new congress on July 7, 2012. The new 200-member congress, known as the GNC, was sworn in on August 8, 2012. It immediately elected a leader for the congress, Mohammed Magarief, and organized a process whereby a new prime minister would be selected by congress members. The new prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur, was elected on September 12. The GNC will function as Libya’s legislature until a constitution is drafted and ratified and new national elections are held, currently scheduled for the first half of 2013.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Libyan Militia Takes Control of Tripoli Airport,” Boston Globe, June 5, 2012.
[6] “Flights Resume at Tripoli Airport After Seizure,” BBC, June 5, 2012.
[7] “Libyan Authorities Regain Control of Airport Seized by Gunmen,” Agence France-Presse, June 5, 2012.
[8] “Libya Police Put End to Protest at Oil Firm Agoco,” Reuters, May 9, 2012; “Libyan Rebels Storm Prime Minister’s Office,” Guardian, May 8, 2012.
[9] Information on this hitlist came from a personal contact of the author who is based in Benghazi.
[10] Kareem Fahim, “2 Die in Libya as Car Bombs Strike Capital,” New York Times, August 19, 2012; “Libya Arrests Gaddafi Loyalists Over Car Bombings,” Guardian, August 19, 2012.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Alison Pargeter, The New Frontiers of Jihad: Radical Islam in Europe (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).
[14] “Holding Libya Together: Security Challenges after Qadhafi,” International Crisis Group, December 14, 2011; “Libyan Islamist Quits Militia to Enter Politics: Aide,” Reuters, May 14, 2012.
[15] Libyans formed the largest contingent of fighters per capita, but Saudis comprised the largest overall group of foreign fighters. Additionally, the Sinjar Records do not represent the total number of foreign fighters in Iraq, but a selection of approximately 600 foreign fighters.
[16] Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, Al-Qa`ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2007).
[17] Personal observation, Benghazi, Libya, March 2012.
[18] “Attack in Benghazi,” U.S. Embassy in Libya, June 11, 2012.
[19] “Libya Unrest: UK Envoy’s Convoy Attacked in Benghazi,” BBC, June 11, 2012.
[20] Ibid.
[21] “Gunmen Storm Tunisian Consulate in Benghazi,” France24, June 18, 2012.
[22] `Umar `Abd al-Rahman was found guilty in U.S. courts for having masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center attack. See “Attacks on Western Targets in Libya Sow Fears of Islamist Extremists,” Washington Post, June 15, 2012.
[23] “Sources: U.S. Mission in Benghazi Attacked to Avenge al Qaeda,” CNN, June 6, 2012.
[24] The video can be viewed at
[25] Jean-Pierre Filiu, “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Algerian Challenge or Global Threat?” Carnegie Papers, October 2009.
[26] Robin Benejri, “Did Ansar al-Sharia Carry Out Libya Attack?” BBC, September 12, 2012.
[27] Aaron Zelin, “Jihadism’s Foothold in Libya,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 12, 2012.
[28] Ahmed Maher, “Meeting Mohammad Ali al-Zahawi of Libyan Ansar al-Sharia,” BBC, September 18, 2012; Mel Frykberg, “Ansar al Shariah, Linked to Diplomat’s Death, Sets Benghazi Rally to Counter Calls for Moderation,” McClatchy Newspapers, September 20, 2012.
[29] According to the Wall Street Journal, “The [U.S.] officials said the AQIM leaders were communicating with members of Ansar al-Shari`a, a local group of Libyan militants, after seeing violent anti-U.S. protests breaking out in Cairo.” See Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous, “U.S. Probing al Qaeda Link in Libya,” Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2012; Chris Stephen, “Libyan Parliamentary Speaker Hints at Military Strike after Consulate Attack,” Guardian, September 16, 2012; Temple-Raston.
[30] Josh Lederman, “UN Ambassador Says Libya Attack was Spontaneous,” Associated Press, September 16, 2012.
[31] Taha Zargoun, “Fighters Bulldoze Sufi Mosque in Central Tripoli,” Reuters, August 25, 2012.

Jihadist Presence in Syria: An Analysis of Martyrdom Notices
Author: Aaron Y. Zelin,  Feb 20, 2013

When the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, the presence of jihadists in the protests was minimal at best. As the rebellion escalated, jihadists began to take advantage of the new landscape. Fighters associated with al-Qa`ida’s worldview quietly entered the fight in the fall of 2011. These Salafi-jihadi fighters officially announced themselves in late January 2012 under the banner of Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front) and became one of the key fighting forces against the Bashar al-Assad regime by the fall of 2012.[1]

Since the Syrian protest movement turned into an armed insurrection in the summer of 2011, the jihad in Syria has become the du jour locale for fighters who want to topple the “apostate” al-Assad regime for a variety of strategic, geographic, and religious reasons. Similar to the Iraqi jihad at its zenith, users on al-Qa`ida’s official and unofficial web forums began to post unofficial yet authentic martyrdom notices for individuals—both Syrian and foreign—who they perceived to have fought on behalf of the jihadist cause.[2]

This article looks quantitatively and qualitatively at these notices.[3] The data and biographical information collected is based on threads from jihadist web forums[4] dating from the start of the uprising through January 31, 2013. It is likely that some notices have been missed, but it is still useful to piece together each individual’s identity, from where they are from, with whom they fought, and where they died.

It does not, however, include fighters mentioned in Jabhat al-Nusra’s official statements or videos. Therefore, while the data is useful in providing clarity on the role of foreign fighters in Syria, it still suffers from many limitations and should be considered anecdotal.

Quantitative Data: Basic Metrics
There were discrepancies in the amount of data provided in each unofficial martyrdom notice. The quantitative data mainly focuses on city of origin, country of origin, city martyred in, and group joined. There are two levels of data compiled for these four metrics: overall, and in the past four months. Organizing the data by time period helps situate the current trajectories in the conflict.
In total, there are currently 130 individuals in the author’s dataset, and 85 of the 130 have been identified in the past four months. The first recorded unofficial martyrdom notice was posted in February 2012, but this individual, the Kuwaiti Hussam al-Mutayri, actually died on August 29, 2011, fighting with the Free Syrian Army in Damascus.[5] Every individual in the dataset has a record of which country they were from. More than half (70 out of 130) mentioned the group with which the individual fought, while 76 of 130 locations of death were provided. Additionally, the city of origin of the martyrs was detailed 45 out of 130 times.

The steep increase in individuals being reported as martyrs on the forums in the past four months, as seen in Table 1 (see attached PDF), provides circumstantial evidence that more foreign jihadists have joined the battlefield recently.[6]

Table 1 highlights jihadist forum martyrdom notices from individuals’ country of origin. Predictably, it shows Syrians as having the most records.[7] It also tentatively illustrates that similar to the Sinjar records captured by U.S. forces in Iraq, Libyans and Saudis have played important roles in the fight against the al-Assad regime.[8] Due to the proximity and known links between al-Qa`ida in Iraq (AQI) and Jabhat al-Nusra, it is somewhat surprising that the number of Iraqis is so low. It is possible that Iraqis might be in more senior positions or facilitating activities along the border and therefore not on the front lines, but that is only speculation.

The data in Table 2, which shows the jihadist martyrdom notices for the city where the individual died fighting, confirms broader assumptions about in what cities jihadists are engaged. Large portions of cities in Table 2 (see attached PDF) are located in the northern and eastern regions of Syria where many of the Salafi-jihadi groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra or Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham are based.[9] It also demonstrates the growing role some jihadists have played in recent battles with the regime, such as the takeover of the Taftanaz airbase.[10]

Table 3 confirms what is likely uncontroversial: the majority of unofficial martyrdom notices belong to individuals affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra. Furthermore, it highlights the rapid increase in fighters who have joined its cause in recent months.[11] Table 3 (see attached PDF) also shows that jihadists in individual capacities have not recently joined and died while fighting with brigades attached to the Free Syrian Army. This could suggest that the recruiting networks for Jabhat al-Nusra within and outside of Syria have built greater capabilities. It could also be evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra has established itself to such an extent that foreign fighters refuse to fight with any other group.
There is also data for martyrdom notices by city of origin, but it is of a limited scope.[12] That said, similar to the Sinjar records, some cities such as Zarqa in Jordan and Derna in Libya were responsible for the most recruits. This could anecdotally suggest that some of the older facilitation networks during the time of the Iraq war are still operational or were reactivated in the past year. More information is needed to reach a definitive conclusion.[13]

The records yielded a number of other details. Of the 130 individuals in the dataset, 10 noted that they previously spent time in prison. A different grouping of 14 showed that they had experience fighting in other conflicts, three of which stated they had fought in two prior jihads. Seven of the 14 individuals fought during the Libyan uprising against the Mu`ammar Qadhafi regime, three during the Iraq war, two in Yemen, two against Israel, and one each in Afghanistan, the Sinai, Chechnya, and Kosovo. This suggests that the fight in Libya provided a starting point for Libyans, Egyptians, and Palestinians to fight in Syria. This is not surprising when taking into account that there are known training camps in Libya that provide skills to fighters before they depart for jihad in Syria.[14]

Qualitative Data: Martyrs’ Stories
There were two themes among the martyrs’ biographies where details on the individual’s life were provided: involvement with jihadist activism online, and those who became commanders or religious officials in different rebel groups. Additionally, there were other distinctive stories from the martyrs.

Online Jihadists
Over the years, self-described “jihadists” have moved from non-violent online activism to play a direct role in fighting on behalf of al-Qa`ida-affiliated Salafi-jihadi groups. The Syrian war is no different. Seven of the biographies in the dataset included details on the individual’s online activism.
For example, Muhammad Abu Yasin, a Syrian from Idlib who died in late June 2012, helped with the production and dissemination of online magazines. He went by the names of `Awasif al-Qa`ida and Jundi Dawlat al-Islam.[15]

Similarly, Muhammad al-Shajrawi, a Syrian who died in mid-July 2012, and Muhib Ru’yat al-Rahman (whose real name is Jamal al-Yafi), a Lebanese foreign fighter from Tripoli who died in December 2012, were both members and contributors to al-Qa`ida’s forums al-Fida’ al-Islamiya and Shumukh al-Islam. Al-Yafi was prolific, posting 26,761 times on Shumukh alone.[16]

Commanders and Religious Officials
In addition to individuals joining the fight who previously had online careers, some individuals had risen to levels of power either militarily or religiously within rebel groups. For example, Abu `Abad (also known as Abu Mujahid), a Syrian from Aleppo who was affiliated with Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafi-jihadi fighting force, was a supervisor for the Shari`a court established in Aleppo.[17] He died in mid-September 2012.[18] Labib Sulayman (also known as Abu Hamza), another Syrian member of Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham, who died in mid-October 2012, was according to a Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham official one of the first defectors from the Syrian military from Hama.[19] He previously had been in the al-Assad regime’s military academy.[20] He became a commander for a Kata’ib Ahrar al-Sham’s sub-unit, Katibat Salah al-Din.[21]

There are also individuals who had prior religious training, such as the Syrian from Deir al-Zour, Shaykh Isma`il Muhammad al-`Alush (also known as Abu Ayman), who was affiliated with Liwa’ al-Furqan and died in late December 2012, as well as the Jordanian Riyad Hadayb (also known as Abu `Umar al-Faruq), who was a member of Jabhat al-Nusra. Al-`Alush purportedly had a master’s degree in Shari`a, while Hadayb was an imam before he went to Syria.[22] Hadayb became a mufti for Jabhat al-Nusra before his death on January 23, 2013.[23]

These examples show that jihadists, both Syrian and foreign, are becoming part of the budding civilian societal structure related to the establishment of Shari`a courts in Syria. These courts have helped provide a small semblance of relative law and order in some pockets of the country that have been liberated or partially controlled by rebel forces.

Unique Backgrounds
Others in the dataset have stories that are not threaded together by any particular theme. One individual, Ahmad Raf`at (also known as Abu Bara’), an Egyptian from Kufr al-Shaykh who died fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra, had previously been imprisoned in Egypt.[24] He was released after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and he swiftly went across the border to join the fight in Libya against the regime until Qadhafi’s death.[25] Raf`at then traveled to Syria where he died in early July 2012.[26]
There were also cases when Syrians who were outside of the country returned to fight. Hussam al-Din al-Armanazi (also known as Abu `Umar Hussam al-Din al-Halabi), originally from Aleppo, had been studying medicine in Germany at the outbreak of the uprising.[27] Al-Armanazi made it back to Saadallah al-Jabri Square in Aleppo for the protests on March 15, 2011, and was arrested the next day.[28] He spent two months in prison, and after his release he returned to Germany and helped with online activities for local committees in Aleppo.[29] He later returned to Syria to fight in Idlib and Aleppo, and he died in late July 2012.[30]

Similarly, the 15-year-old `Umar Bakirati (also known as Abu Hamza al-Faruq), from Qudsaya, fled Syria to Turkey with his family.[31] He returned and became a sniper for Jabhat al-Nusra, allegedly killing 13 pro-government shabiha before he died in Hama in late October 2012.[32] Both stories illustrate the duty felt by Syrians in the face of the al-Assad regime’s crackdown.

There are also those who had decades of experience in the overall jihadist movement. For instance, `Abd al-`Aziz al-Jughayman, a Saudi from al-Ahsa and former professor at King Faisal University, had been involved with some of the major fields of jihad dating back to the 1980s. According to the forums, al-Jughayman fought in Afghanistan on two different tours, as well as in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kashmir, and Iraq. The al-Assad regime, however, apprehended and then imprisoned him for three years in the middle of the last decade. He died fighting against that same regime in late November 2012.[33]

Finally, there were individuals who followed in the footsteps of family members who had previous experiences fighting jihad. For instance, Muhammad Yasin Jarad, a Jordanian from Zarqa who died fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra in al-Suwayda in mid-January 2013, was cousins with Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of AQI.[34] Even closer-linked, Jarad’s father Yasin was purportedly behind the Najaf operation that killed Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most prominent Shi`a Muslim leaders, in 2003.[35] This highlights the familial connections that have inspired others to take up the cause as well.

With the Syrian war continuing into the spring with no end in sight, it is likely that more unofficial martyrdom stories from the jihadist forums will continue to trickle out about fighters who died waging war against the al-Assad regime. The trend of affiliation points to Syrians and foreigners who have a worldview closely aligned with al-Qa`ida and who join the Salafi-jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra.

Moreover, foreigners joining the fight will likely continue to come from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Tunisia based on current trends, proximity, and capable facilitation networks. As more data becomes available, an even clearer picture will emerge to better understand who is fighting in the conflict as part of the jihadist faction within the broader rebel movement.

Aaron Y. Zelin is the Richard Borow fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He also maintains the website, which is a primary source archive for global jihadist materials.

[1] For more background, see Brian Fishman, “The Evidence of Jihadist Activity in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 5:5 (2012); Aaron Y. Zelin, “Jihadists in Syria Can be Found on the Internet,” al-Monitor, October 18, 2012.
[2] Although it is impossible to prove the authenticity of all of the martyrdom notices, the forums provide images and details on the deceased fighters, and it is unlikely that this information would be fabricated for so many individuals. Furthermore, the notices can be cross-referenced with videos posted on YouTube or on other Syrian opposition sites. In some cases, relatives of foreign fighters conducted honorary funerals even if they were buried in Syria.
[3] There were limitations in collecting this dataset since some notices provided far richer information than others.
[4] The data was drawn from al-Fida’ al-Islamiya, Shumukh al-Islam, Ansar al-Mujahidin, and the al-Jihad al-`Alami forums, among other online global jihadist sources.
[5] “Awal Shuhada’ Jazirat al-`Arab fi Suriyya (Hussam al-Mutayri),” Shumukh al-Islam, February 17, 2012.
[6] An alternative conclusion is that the rise in martyrdom notices is simply because more individuals are posting these statements than in the past. That said, because of the growth in the strength of groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra on the ground as well as backing by global jihadist ideologues, it is likely that there are more jihadists fighting today.
[7] If one were to take into account official Jabhat al-Nusra releases, the number would be even higher.
[8] Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, Al-Qa`ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2007).
[9] Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake, “Jabhat al-Nusra: A Strategic Briefing,” Quilliam Foundation, January 8, 2013; “Kurd-Jihadist Clashes in North Syria,” Agence France-Presse, January 18, 2013; Martin Chulov, “Syria Crisis: Al-Qaida Fighters Revealing Their True Colours, Rebels Say,” Guardian, January 17, 2013; “Eastern Syrian Town Lives Under al Qaeda Rules,” Reuters, January 30, 2013.
[10] Andrew J. Tabler, Jeffrey White, and Aaron Y. Zelin, “Fallout from the Fall of Taftanaz,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, January 14, 2013.
[11] For more details, see footnote 6.
[12] The full list of individuals martyred by city of origin is as follows: Aleppo, Syria: 5; Zarqa, Jordan: 3; Derna, Libya: 3; Tripoli, Lebanon: 3; al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia: 2; Deir al-Zour, Syria: 2; Benghazi, Libya: 2; Tunis, Tunisia: 2; Damascus, Syria: 2; Gaza, Palestine: 2; Alexandria, Egypt: 1; Ariana, Tunisia: 1; Ayn Shams, Egypt: 1; Binsh, Syria: 1; Dhiban, Syria: 1; Ha’il, Saudi Arabia: 1; Irbid, Jordan: 1; Ma’an, Jordan: 1; Melbourne, Australia: 1; Pristina, Kosovo: 1; Mahdia, Tunisia: 1; Arar, Saudi Arabia: 1; Ceuta, Spain: 1; Fayyum, Egypt: 1; Homs, Syria: 1; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: 1; Damietta, Egypt: 1; Kufr al-Shaykh, Egypt: 1; Upper Egypt, Egypt: 1. The number of individuals martyred in the past four months by city of origin is as follows: Aleppo, Syria: 1; Zarqa, Jordan: 3; Derna, Libya: 2; Tripoli, Lebanon: 2; al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia: 2; Deir al-Zour, Syria: 2; Benghazi, Libya: 1; Tunis, Tunisia: 1; Damascus, Syria: 1; Gaza, Palestine: 1; Alexandria, Egypt: 1; Ariana, Tunisia: 1; Ayn Shams, Egypt: 1; Binsh, Syria: 1; Dhiban, Syria: 1; Ha’il, Saudi Arabia: 1; Irbid, Jordan: 1; Ma’an, Jordan: 1; Melbourne, Australia: 1; Pristina, Kosovo: 1; Mahdia, Tunisia: 1; Arar, Saudi Arabia: 0; Ceuta, Spain: 0; Fayyum, Egypt: 0; Homs, Syria: 0; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: 0; Damietta, Egypt: 0; Kufr al-Shaykh, Egypt: 0; Upper Egypt, Egypt: 0.
[13] Ibid.
[14] “Libya’s Terrorist Training Camps,” CNN, January 19, 2013; Aaron Y. Zelin, “Jihadism’s Foothold in Libya,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 12, 2012.
[15] “Al-Shahid bi-Idhin Allah Muhammad Abu Yasin Jundi al-Dawla Ahad A`dha’ al-Muntada,” Shumukh al-Islam, July 20, 2012.
[16] “Sur `Ars al-Shahid bi-Idhin Allah Ikhwaum — Muhib bin Ladin … al-Nasir Tawala — mata Sanlahiq bi-l-Qafilah,” Shumukh al-Islam, July 20, 2012; “Li-l-Tawdhih — Istishhad al-Shaykh — Muhib Ru’yat al-Rahman,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, December 18, 2012.
[17] “Istishhadal-Shaykh al-Zahid al-Mujahid wa al-Mulaqab bi-Abu `Abid al-Mushrif `ala al-Mahkamah al-Shar`iyah fi Halab,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, September 18, 2012.
[18] Ibid.
[19] “Istishhadal-Qa’id al-`Askari li-Katibat Salah ad-Din — Abu Hamzah — Kata’ib Ahrar ash-Sham,” Shumukh al-Islam, October 11, 2012.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] “Istishhadal-Shaykh Isma`il Muhammad al-`Alush,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, December 28, 2012; “Abu `Umar al-Faruq al-Mufti al-Shar`i li-Jabhat al-Nusra Tabat Hayan wa maytan,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, January 23, 2013.
[23] Ibid.
[24] “Bushra Istishhadal-Akh Ahmad Rif`at ‘ala Ardh Suriyya fi Muwajahat al-Taghut al-Nusayri,” al-Jihad al-`Alami, July 11, 2012.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] “Al-Shahid bi-Idhin Allah Hussam al-Din min Halab Taraka al-Tib fi Almaniyya wa-nal al-Shahada fi al-Sham-Sura,” al-Sanam Islamic Network, July 31, 2012.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid.
[31] “Al-Shahid Abu Hamzah al-Faruq ma` Inshudah la tas’aluni `an Hayyati,” Shabakat Ansar al-Sham, October 31, 2012.
[32] Ibid.
[33] “Sur # Istishhad al-Batal `Abd al-`Aziz,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, November 24, 2012.
[34] “IstishhadSuhur Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi fi Midinah al-Suwayda’ Janub Suriyya wa-l-Urdun Tarfadh Isdar Shahdah Himam al-Bilawi,” Ansar al-Mujahidin Forum, January 18, 2013.
[35] Ibid.

Can Libya be Locked Down?
In a post-Qaddafi era, who will secure Libya's chemical and biological weapons materials?
By Bilal Y. Saab • 22 September 2011

On August 25, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Libyan opposition leaders had an obligation to the international community, as well as to their own people, to secure and control the country's chemical and nuclear agents. The United States will look to Libya's Transitional National Council "to ensure that Libya fulfills its treaty responsibilities, that it ensures that its weapons stockpiles do not threaten its neighbors or fall into the wrong hands, and that it takes a firm stand against violent extremism," Clinton said.

Taking into account the rebels' different priorities and the fluid, uncertain nature of the transition, there is ample reason to be skeptical of their ability and perhaps even willingness to perform that difficult and urgent task in a relatively short period of time.

Should Libya's emerging leaders prove incapable or unwilling to secure the chemical and nuclear materials, there is a moderate to substantial risk of proliferation, given the state of chaos in the country and the fact that its borders with Algeria—where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has a strong presence—are relatively insecure.

It is difficult to assess how the rebel movement will handle the transition once the fight against Muammar Qaddafi is over. However, it is possible that many of the international community's concerns—including stemming proliferation and terrorism—may take a backseat to the opposition's own domestic political priorities.

Washington's immediate worries about post-Qaddafi Libya
US officials have wasted no time articulating publicly and privately a list of concerns regarding the aftermath of Qaddafi's downfall. Topping that list are two immediate worries that relate to US counterterrorism and nonproliferation interests—securing both Libya's borders and its remaining weapons of mass destruction (WMD) materials.

From a US vantage point there are important differences between Iraq and Libya: the United States is not involved in a nation-building exercise in Libya, and it does not have soldiers stationed there. But the memories of the post-war Iraqi fiasco are still fresh in Washington, and given the gravity of US concerns about terrorism and proliferation, half measures and disengagement are not options.

Securing Libya's borders
The Iraqi experience suggests that relatively open and insecure borders easily attract terrorist elements. The total collapse of order in Iraq following the 2003 invasion and occupation made it possible for terrorists to cross into Iraq from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere to join the armed insurgency and, later, al Qaeda in Iraq.

Libya is the seventeenth largest state in the world; its western border with Algeria is nearly 1,000 kilometers, roughly half the size of the total length of the US-Mexico border. Even a stable country with a relatively functional government and competent security forces would have difficulty securing such a frontier. Post-Qaddafi Libya will have neither a regular government nor army for at least several months, if not a year. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that it will be able to provide effective security and prevent weapons smuggling along its borders.

Moreover, Libya will be extremely vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists from Algeria, a country whose government has for decades been fighting Islamist extremists (formerly called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), who in 2003 pledged allegiance to al Qaeda's central leadership and morphed into al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. With al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula posing one of the most dangerous terrorist threats to the United States, and al Qaeda in Pakistan and in Iraq threatening security and US strategic interests in those two states, Washington is keen to avoid allowing another major transnational terrorist threat to develop in North Africa.

Al Qaeda has suffered some major setbacks recently due to successful US drone attacks in Pakistan, the killings of Osama bin Laden and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, and the subsequent confiscation by the Navy SEALs of sensitive material on the organization's goals and plans. However, the terrorist network's regional branches continue to pose serious threats to US interests and the homeland.

Securing WMD materials
Three facts about the likelihood of WMD control and security provide some reassurance: One, Libya's rebels have agreed that they have "obligations toward the international community." Two, the whereabouts of nuclear and chemical materials are assumed to have been known since Qaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear weapons program in 2003. Three, the CIA and several international private intelligence assessment teams have been on the ground making sure the weapons and agents are safe and under control. These facts notwithstanding, accurate verification is still a problem, however.

The mission of securing and controlling Libya's WMD materials, even to the most proficient intelligence service in the world, is extremely difficult to accomplish thanks to its zero margin of error. This observation has not been lost to several US officials including Republican representative and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers, Africa Command chief General Carter Ham, and White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan, who all expressed serious concerns about the security of Libya's WMD materials.[1]

The large US military presence in Iraq made it easier not only to sustain the peace and combat al Qaeda but also to help build a national Iraqi army. Although some Western and Arab countries have an intelligence presence in Libya, none currently has plans to deploy troops there or even to assist with the rebuilding of the Libyan army and police force. It may take years before a new social contract and a coherent military and security apparatus are formed.

While the Libyan rebels received significant assistance from NATO in their efforts to topple Qaddafi, it would be wrong to assume that the rebels feel that they owe anything to the United States or the West, and their current priorities do not necessarily include border security or nonproliferation. It is reasonable to say that the rebels' urgent goals are to mobilize and reach out to the wider Libyan population, eliminate remaining Qaddafi loyalists, unify their ranks, and manage tribal differences—all crucial for democratic transition and nation-building. Yet these aims diverge starkly from the pressing security concerns in Libya as seen by Washington and other Western capitals. Whether the differences in priorities can be reconciled for the benefit of nonproliferation and global security remains to be seen.

Libya's Limited WMD Capabilities
Nuclear: When Libya ended its clandestine nuclear program in 2003, the country was approximately five to seven years away from having the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. By 2008, Libya was cooperating fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and until the uprising, it was actively seeking foreign assistance to develop the peaceful use of nuclear technology. There are currently no known uranium mining, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, or reprocessing facilities in Libya.
Biological: Libya has never admitted to an offensive biological weapons capability. After 2003, inspectors found evidence of fairly advanced biological weapons research and development but no weaponization. While Libyan ground-based missile systems and airdrop bombs are theoretically capable of being adapted for biological weapons delivery, the country is not capable of producing significant quantities of weaponized biological agents within a five-year time frame.

Chemical: Since acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention on January 6, 2004, Libyan authorities have made slow progress in destroying the country's stockpile of chemical weapons agents, which included 23 tons of sulphur mustard and millions of pounds of chemical precursors. In addition, while the Qaddafi government agreed to convert its existing Scud-B missiles to limit their range to less than 300 km, it is unclear if these weapons have been modified, making them potential delivery vehicles for chemical agents. Until all chemical agents are destroyed and ballistic missiles downgraded, there remains a threat that these materials could be diverted to use by non-state actors, such as criminal organizations or terrorist groups, or retained by Libya.

Bilal Y. Saab is a Visiting Fellow in the Washington, DC office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

[1] See also Indira A.R. Laksmanan and Tony Capaccio, "Intelligence Chairman Urges White House Action on Libyan Weapons," Bloomberg, September 6, 2011.

Intelligence Chairman Urges White House Action on Libyan Weapons
By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan & Tony Capaccio - Sep 6, 2011

Lethal weapons “are already moving” out of arsenals once controlled by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and the U.S. must “do more” to find and destroy the weapons before terrorists get them, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said.

Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said in an interview at the Bloomberg Washington bureau yesterday that he has approached the White House with concerns that al-Qaeda will acquire Libyan weapons, especially shoulder-fired anti- aircraft missiles.  “We need to be doing more to secure these weapons systems now,” said Rogers, 48, a former Army officer and FBI special agent. While he is not proposing unilateral American military action, he said the U.S. has “special capabilities. There is nobody better who can get their hands on this stuff, account for it and render it safe.”

There is evidence that a small number of Soviet-made SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles from Qaddafi’s arsenal have reached the black market in Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active, according to two U.S. government officials not authorized to speak on the record.  Rogers said that the window to secure loose weapons “is rapidly closing.” The congressman said he has had “productive talks” with the administration in which he has urged the White House to swiftly dedicate more resources and work with NATO allies and the Libyan National Transitional Council on the problem. “I wouldn’t wait weeks,” he said.

‘Not Aggressive Enough’
In Iraq, the U.S. was “not aggressive enough” in safeguarding munitions that “ended up killing lots of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers too. I don’t want to make that same mistake,” Rogers said.
Libya’s “systems are even more lethal,” he said.  Asked about Rogers’ comments, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. has been for years “concerned about the full range of potential proliferation challenges in Libya. Since earlier this year, we have actively engaged with our international partners” and the Libyan National Transitional Council to secure those weapons.
Vietor stressed that “sensitive elements of Libya’s nuclear program” were removed from the country between 2004 and 2009 and “we have been monitoring known missile and chemical agent storage facilities since the start of this conflict and will continue to do so.”

Libya’s chemical stocks -- 11.3 metric tons of mustard agent and 845 metric tons of chemical precursors -- are stored in non-weapon form inside steel containers and secure bunkers in a remote part of Libya, according to a White House fact sheet.

‘Just Don’t Know’
Rogers said Qaddafi may not have disclosed all his biological and chemical weapons. “We just don’t know. There had been Sarin gas and other things,” he said.  The disintegration of Qaddafi’s four-decade dictatorship has created opportunity for looters to sell missiles to terrorists seeking to attack military or civilian aircraft. Rogers said he fears there may not be enough time for a buyback program, in which operatives find sellers and offer high prices.

Libya, postwar, may quickly face economic hardships that make illicit weapons sales especially attractive, Rogers said. “Here’s my fear: All these weapons become cash commodities.”
Army General Carter Ham, head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April that Libya once had as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles. “Many of those, we know, are now not accounted for, and that’s going to be a concern for some period,” he said.

Black Market Sales
The Soviet SA-7 and SA-7b, an updated model, are the main shoulder-fired missiles in Qaddafi’s arsenal. The units sell on the black market for several thousand dollars, though the price fell as low as $500 when Saddam Hussein’s weapons were looted and flooded the market after the 2003 U.S. invasion, according to a 2004 report from the Federation of American Scientists.

The U.S. is providing $3 million to two international humanitarian organizations specialized in removing weapons and munitions, Manchester, U.K.-based MAG International and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action in Geneva.

The two groups, which are training Libyans in removing conventional weapons and munitions, have been in eastern, rebel- held Libya since May, and will move into western Libya as security improves, according to the White House.  So far, the teams have cleared more than 450,000 square meters of land and destroyed 5.8 tons of munitions, including five shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to the administration.

The U.S. also is deploying two specially trained contractors to track down and destroy shoulder-fired anti- aircraft missiles, according to an official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the subject.
NATO aircraft have kept Qaddafi’s vast military and industrial complex, including Libya’s two main chemical weapons depots at Sebha and Rabta, under constant surveillance since the rebellion began in February, according to the two U.S. government officials.

To contact the reporters on this story: Indira Lakshmanan in Washington at; Tony Capaccio in Washington at

The 2011 revolution has given the people of Libya much longed for freedoms, but it has also led to the increased availability of weapons and ammunition.

Infographic: Securing ammunition in Libya
The problem comes from the Gaddafi government’s storage of weapons and ammunition in massive areas near towns. During the revolution, more than 400 of these bunkers, each the size of a tennis court, were bombed and destroyed.

Weapons and ammunition not destroyed in the bombings were left unsecured, as pictured above. The result is easy access for civilians and militias to the remaining weapons and ammunition, and, consequently, an increased risk of armed violence. There is also a greater likelihood of accidents caused by ammunition taken by civilians.

But the new government lacks sufficient secure storage for the weapons and ammunition that are now in communities. The cost of rebuilding each bunker to its previous specifications is estimated by the United Nations Arms and Ammunition Advisory Service as US$1million to US$1.5m. And projects of this size require time and planning, which doesn’t address the immediate threat of deaths and injuries.

MAG’s solution is to install secure temporary storage units, to help bring weapons and ammunition back under government control. The first set of units, situated in a secured location near the town of Zintan and can hold 80 tonnes of explosives.  It is made up of four shipping containers covered by 600m3 of sand and currently houses 23,981 pieces of serviceable ammunition – some of which was being stored in a disused bakery in the town – all inventoried and securely locked.

A second temporary facility is being constructed by MAG, to store more ammunition, but there is the need for more, as General Ali Tumi, commander of the Zintan ammunition storage area, points out: “It is good [that another facility is being built], but it would be better if there were many, because the amount of [unsecured] ammunition is very big.  “I hope to see a situation where no unauthorised people can reach the ammunition, where it is all stored in good condition and under government control. I hope people will support MAG with this big and important project.”

Ammunition in homes and other community locations poses safety threats to civilians, he says: “It might cause a disaster. People don’t know how to store ammunition. It is a worry to me.”
Twenty-two year-old Mohammed Salem Abdilnabil from Zintan fought against the Gaddafi government during the revolution, sustaining injuries in an arm and leg. He saw weapons and ammunition in the hands of those who had no training: “It was a concern to see this. It still is a concern that people have it in their homes: there are children about who touch it. Ammunition and weapons should be kept properly, and controlled by the military.”

Libyan Mine Action Center

Despite the landmines and explosive remnants of war left over from World War II (1940–1943), the 1977 conflict with Egypt and the Libyan-Chadian war (1980–1987), Libya's former dictator Moammar Gadhafi made little effort to establish a demining program in Libya.1 While the De-mining Society of the Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation worked with the United Nations Development Programme to provide information management and mine-risk education within Libya in 2008,2 efforts were made to create a civilian mine-action program in response to mines along borders with Egypt and Chad.1

However, the Government of Libya is not a signatory to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (also known at the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention or APMBC) or the Convention on Cluster Munitions.3 In fact, Gadhafi even criticized the APMBC in October 2007.2 Regardless of Libya's struggle, the newly founded Libyan Mine Action Center, also known as the Libya Centre for Mine Action and Remnants of War, now serves as the lead organization for addressing weapons security according to Libya's Ministry of Defense.4

Operating out of Tripoli, LMAC relies on approximately 20 employees and, although no final decision has been made, hopes to expand regional branches into affected areas.5 Together with the German Government, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has agreed to support LMAC in capacity development and will fund start-up costs, employee salaries and equipment purchases for one year.5 Collaborating with Libya's Ministry of Defense, LMAC is working with two Sterling International technical advisors, deployed and funded by PM/WRA to assist in capacity development. LMAC also receives support from a U.S. and U.K. technical advisor who are working with LMAC to create a strategic plan and additional capacity development.5

When the Gadhafi regime collapsed, Libya could claim the largest stockpile of man-portable air-defense systems of any non-MANPADS producing nation, having acquired approximately 20,000 within the past four decades.4 On 2 February 2012, Assistant Secretary Andrew Shapiro of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs addressed the challenges in Libya and stated that the United States is currently involved in "the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of MANPADS in U.S. history."4 The United States has allocated US$40 million for the securement and recovery of Libya's weapons stockpiles.4 In fact, when the fighting in Libya intensified, the U.S. provided nongovernmental organizations with $3 million in April 2011.4 These organizations conducted clearance of unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war, collaborating with the Transitional National Council, also known as the National Transitory Council.4

On the Ground
Although the situation in Libya is fluid as the interim government deals with the political crisis, PM/WRA provided grants to the MAG (Mines Advisory Group) and the Fondation Suisse de Déminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action) for various clearance operations in the country.6 FSD has trained and deployed battle-area clearance teams.5 Primarily working in Tobruq, FSD's BAC teams are funded by PM/WRA and received $1,400,000 in grant money. As of 25 April 2012, FSD teams have cleared 658,819 square meters (163 acres) of land with the removal of 19,541 items of UXO. 5,7,8

From as early as April 2011, MAG operated in Libya with a $1,222,080 grant from PM/WRA and $290,000 in aid provided by the British Government.8 Employing explosive ordnance disposal teams to conduct spot tasks, MAG began its work in Benghazi and proceeded to move along the coast to new contaminated areas as fighting ceased and opportunity permitted.5 As of May 2011, MAG had already conducted 30 spot tasks and cleared 168 explosive remnants of war.7 Spokesman for the United Nations Mine Action Service Tekimiti Gilbert stated that MAG was also tasked with a removing and destroying aviation ordnance for a downed fighter jet that crash-landed 40 kilometers (31 miles) east of Benghazi.3 Furthermore, ammunition storage areas targeted by NATO forces are of great concern for MAG and are a focus of clearance.5

To assist in containing the UXO problem, UNMAS is also working in Libya with the International Committee of the Red Cross.3 Moreover, UNMAS has facilitated donations from the Government of Denmark and the Australian Agency for International Development.7 In addition, Handicap International is working with the Libyan Scouts Organizations and LMAC to provide mine-risk education to the civilians on the risks linked to ERW, UXO and small arms and light weapons.9 DanChurchAid and the Danish Demining Group are also working in Libya to clear ERW.5

In an effort to aid in disposal of landmines and ERW, Germany's Federal Foreign Office has given EUR€750,000 (US$1,004,100)10 to LMAC.11 This donation will support LMAC in the recovery and destruction of weapons stockpiles as well as help fund start-up costs.5,11 As the plundering of Libya's amassed weapons stockpiles has attracted international attention, reports cite that stockpiles show clear signs of looting. Alexander Griffiths, Head of Operations for FSD, claims "the ammo dumps we've seen are either partially destroyed or picked clean."8

In his speech on the proliferation of MANPADs in Libya, Shapiro noted that the State Department's programs have provided "diplomatic and development work [that save] … lives and help foster stability in every region of the world."4 The assistance provided by the U.S. State Department and the collaboration of NGOs on the ground in Libya, working together with LMAC, are providing the war-torn country with much needed relief, with the intent of securing weapons that ensure the safety of not only Libya but of the region and the rest of the world. Despite the current situation in Libya, the U.S. and German Governments are providing LMAC with the necessary means to begin to handle issues of weapons security and clearance operations within Libya. 
~ Blake Williamson, CISR staff

Contact Information:  Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
James Madison University - Harrisonburg, Virginia / USA
Email: Website:

“Libya.” Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor. 11 September 2011.
custom/index.php/region_profiles/print_theme/1132. Accessed 28 February 2012.
“Libya.” Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor. . Accessed 28 February 2012.
“LIBYA: Looming threat of scattered munitions in the east.” IRIN. 16 May 2011. Accessed 28 February 2012.
“State’s Shapiro on MANPADS, Libyan Efforts to Secure Weapons.” US Policy. Embassy of the United States – Brussels, Belgium. 3 February 2012. Accessed 28 February 2012.
Phone Interview with Emma Smith and Katie Smith. 22 February 2012.
“Emergency battle area clearance in Libya.” FSD. Accessed 28 February 2012.
Joint Mine Action Coordination Team – Libya. Weekly Report #1. 24 May 2011. Accessed 20 February 2012.
“U.S. Is Paying European Teams to Hunt Stray Munitions in Libya.” The New York Times. 17 June 2011. Accessed 17 February 2012.
“Handicap International (HI) (Log Assistant).” Libyan 3 February 2012. Accessed 17 February 2012.
Euro to US dollar conversion, 24 February 2012.
“Libya: Securing weapons and destroying landmines, munitions and explosive remnants of war.” Federal Foreign Office. 30 December 2011.
Aussenpolitik/Friedenspolitik/Abruestung_/Projekte/110930-Landminen-Libyen-FSD.html?nn=606646. Accessed 7 March 2012.

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)
Libya: State's Shapiro On MANPADS, Libyan Efforts to Secure Weapons
2 February 2012

Remarks as prepared by Andrew J. Shapiro, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State, addressing the challenge of MANPADS Proliferation.

Thank you. It is my great pleasure to be here at the Stimson Center. Stimson has long been a leader in developing our understanding of international security and I want to thank the center for having me here today to speak on this important topic. I also want to thank Linc - not just for that kind introduction - but also for all the work he did when he ran the Political-Military Affairs Bureau. U.S. efforts to destroy and secure shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles started under Linc's watch and as Special Envoy he helped focus international attention on this threat. His efforts have well prepared us for the current challenges we are facing today.

Today, I want to talk to you about our efforts to address the threat posed by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile systems, also known as Man-Portable-Air-Defense-Systems or MANPADS. Currently in Libya we are engaged in the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of MANPADS in U.S. history. But before I talk about Libya, let me first talk a bit about why we are so focused on this threat.

In the wrong hands, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles pose a major threat to passenger air travel, the commercial aviation industry, and possibly military aircraft around the world. Not only could a successful attack against an aircraft cause a devastating loss of life, but it could also cause significant economic damage. Airline travel is critical to our interconnected global economy. Any successful attack could therefore have very harmful economic effects not only in the region where the attack occurred, but also in countries around the world.

In 2002, just over nine years ago, the world was awakened to the threat posed by MANPADS when terrorists shot two missiles at an Israeli civilian Boeing 757 in Mombasa, Kenya. If the missiles had hit the plane, the attack could have resulted in hundreds of deaths and could have had a chilling effect on international air traffic.

While we can be thankful that no American civilian planes have been shot down by one of these systems, the use of MANPADS in Iraq and Afghanistan by insurgents has posed a threat to American and coalition troops, as well as to reconstruction efforts. Take for example the 2003 attack on a DHL cargo plane taking off from Baghdad International Airport. As it attempted to deliver mail from Iraq to nearby Bahrain, the plane was hit by a MANPADS missile, damaging the left wing and causing the loss of the hydraulic flight control systems. Miraculously, the crew was able to regain control and make an emergency landing. These attacks gained world-wide attention and prompted the U.S. government to make countering the proliferation of MANPADS a top national security priority.
MANPADS were first developed at the beginning of the Cold War by the United States and the Soviet Union.

They were designed to be used by conventional armies against enemy aircraft. But today many of the older systems have almost no military utility, since they are ineffective against modern military aircraft equipped with countermeasures. Yet a number of countries still possess large stockpiles of these outdated systems. And since they are no longer militarily useful, countries' often struggle to devote the necessary resources to properly secure them. In fact, for most countries, possession of these aging systems is often more of a liability than an asset. While these outdated weapons may be of little use to a host country's military, they are prized systems for smugglers and terrorists. This makes improperly secured stockpiles of MANPADS a prime target for smugglers and for terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.

Just as nuclear proliferation has been a major concern in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so too is the proliferation of MANPADS. MANPADS were built to be portable, easy-to-use, and readily transferable, making them an ideal weapon for terrorists seeking to attack airliners. Some MANPADS are as small as four feet long, weighing less than 30 pounds. Yet, this light-weight weapon is capable of firing a missile at twice the speed of sound which can engage a plane flying as high as 15,000 feet and over 3 miles away within 10 seconds.  By using infrared sensors, the first generation of MANPADS could lock onto an aircraft's heat source to guide the missile to impact.

Most MANPADS require three parts to function: a missile packaged in a tube; a gripstock (also known as a launcher); and a battery. Importantly, the missile tube can only be used once. Unlike a rocket propelled grenade, it cannot be reloaded. Likewise, the battery only has enough energy to power the missile system long enough for one launch. While MANPADS are a guided system, they usually require some weapons training to be used effectively. These weapons require more than just 'pointing and clicking,' especially with the older models found in Libya that lack sophisticated guidance mechanisms. This is one of several factors that helps explain the limited number of successful attacks globally.

The most proliferated type of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile is also the first-generation of the system. It is an infrared-guided system designed by the former Soviet Union known as the SA-7. This weapon was introduced in the late 1960s, was heavily produced in the 1970s, and is the system most commonly held by terrorist groups. It is also the system that the Qadhafi regime stockpiled by the thousands. While MANPADS can vary greatly in the way they operate, they all pose a serious threat to international aviation.

Over the last decade, international awareness of the threat has grown and some important steps have been taken by the international community. For instance, regulations have been tightened on MANPADS exports. Guidelines have been established for stockpile management. And technological developments have been explored that could limit the use or the effectiveness of these weapons.
se of MANPADS stocks that are no longer needed for their national defense. Since 2003, our cooperation with more than 30 countries around the globe has led to the destruction of nearly 33,000 excess, loosely secured, or otherwise at-risk MANPADS.

This is also very much a multi-agency effort. The Department of Defense provides its technical expertise in providing physical security and stockpile management assessments to countries. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security has a program within the Transportation Security Administration that assists countries to better protect their airports from a possible attack. DHS sends teams to countries to conduct vulnerability assessments in order to identify areas around international airports where MANPADS could be launched. DHS also help these countries' develop a plan to counter this threat.

The State Department, along with our interagency partners, has worked in numerous post-conflict countries, including the Balkans, Burundi, and Liberia, to secure and destroy obsolete and excess weapons, especially MANPADS. For instance, between 2003 and 2004, we worked with Bosnia to destroy its government-held stockpile of almost 6,000 MANPADS. In each of these countries, these governments realized the enormous threat that unneeded weapons posed. Not only can these weapons end up in the hands of terrorists, but poorly maintained weapons depots also pose a threat to people who live near these sites.

Additionally, our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan required us to work in conflict environments. In both countries we worked to set up integrated Conventional Weapons Destruction programs that targeted high value weapons, specifically MANPADS. We also worked to protect the civilians from landmines, IEDs, unexploded ordnance, and excess weapons and unstable munitions. For example, in Iraq, the United States has invested more than $200 million in conventional weapons destruction projects since 2003. After more than three decades of violent conflict, Afghanistan is severely contaminated by landmines, unexploded ordinance, and excess conventional weapons and unstable munitions. Since the 1990s, the State Department has provided more than $200 million in humanitarian mine action and conventional weapons destruction assistance to Afghanistan. Our work in these countries, much of it under Linc's stewardship, has helped prepare us for the challenge posed by the crisis in Libya.

For decades, the Qadhafi regime stockpiled MANPADS. By the time of the regime's collapse, Libya had accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADS of any non-MANPADS producing country in the world. Overall we estimate that the Qadhafi regime acquired a stockpile of approximately 20,000 MANPADS in the past four decades. The collapse of the regime has therefore created a major proliferation challenge for the new Libyan government, the region, and the entire international community.

In response to the crisis, the United States - as Secretary Clinton announced in Tripoli in November - has committed to providing $40 million dollars to assist Libya's efforts to secure and recover its weapons stockpiles. We have also helped galvanize an international response to this crisis and have worked tirelessly in support of the new Libyan government.

We were concerned about Libya's stockpiles of MANPADS well before the outbreak of fighting last spring. In fact, during the brief earlier effort to reestablish relations with Libya, MANPADS was a topic that we sought to address with the Qadhafi regime. As the Arab Spring spread and as protests gathered momentum in Libya, our MANPADS Task Force was well aware of the scope of the challenge. With our team's experience working in other conflict countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, we also knew what to expect and we were ready to respond.

When the fighting escalated and the Qadhafi regime was pushed back from Benghazi, we took immediate steps to try to mitigate the proliferation dangers. In April of last year, we began providing $3 million in funding to NGOs to get them on the ground. These NGOs specialize in conventional weapons destruction and stockpile security and have significant experience. They immediately began working with the Transitional National Council or TNC to clear unexploded ordnance and remnants of war and assisted the TNC in securing loose weapons, including MANPADS.

We also deployed a team from our MANPADS Task Force to brief countries in the region on the potential proliferation dangers. Before Qadhafi was ousted from Tripoli, we had visited all of Libya's neighbors and offered assistance with border security and provided advice on potential steps to improve aviation security.

Additionally, we worked to galvanize an international response to the crisis. We engaged our NATO allies and other close partners, and worked closely with the United Nations to develop an international response.

Once the stalemate broke and the fighting rapidly shifted in the TNC's favor in August, we immediately deployed a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force to Benghazi. Mark Adams, who you will hear from shortly on the panel, is the head of our MANPADS Task Force and spent considerable time on the ground in Libya and can talk more about his experience. The initial primary objective was to reach an agreement with the TNC to set up a MANPADS control and destruction program that would enable us to set up what we call our Phase I efforts. Phase I entailed an effort to rapidly survey, secure, and disable loose MANPADS across the country. To accomplish this, we immediately deployed our Quick Reaction Force, which are teams made up of civilian technical specialists.

A fact often overlooked in our response to events in Libya, is that - unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan - we did not have tens of thousands of U.S. forces on the ground, nor did we control movement and access. This meant we did not have complete freedom of movement around the country. Our efforts on the ground therefore had to be carefully coordinated and fully supported by the TNC. To keep the Libyans in the lead, our technical specialists were embedded in support of TNC-led teams to pursue loose MANPADS. While this did lend some constraints on our ability to ramp up, it also had the important benefit of ensuring that we had complete TNC support for our efforts. And I can tell you, we didn't need to explain to the TNC the importance of securing weapons. They fully understood that weapons proliferation was a real threat to a new Libya and they worked rapidly to organize teams to secure and recover weapons.

In September, as the fighting was still going on, these teams swept the country, scouring ammunition storage sites and more than 1,500 bunkers to find MANPADS. Additionally, teams and experts were also provided by the British Government - and a British colleague who oversaw this deployment, is here today as well. Thus far these teams have helped to identify, recover, and secure approximately 5,000 MANPADS and components.

But this raises the question - how many are still missing? The frank answer is we don't know and probably never will. There are a few reasons for this:
First, we do not have precise information about the Qadhafi regime's weapons stockpiles. The Qadhafi regime was anything but transparent. And we don't have exact information about the regime's weapons inventories. Our teams are working to piece together information we have gained from packing slips in the MANPADS crates that can give us information on the quantities of various shipments. But there is a lot that we don't know about Qadhafi's weapons stockpile. For instance, we don't know how many systems over the last 20-40 years were used in training or military exercises or were damaged or destroyed as a result of improper storage or exposure to the elements. Therefore, getting an exact figure on the number missing is difficult because we don't know exactly how many the Qadhafi regime still possessed at the time of its collapse.

A second reason is that weapons storage sites were a major target of NATO airstrikes. For months, NATO forces pounded away at the Qadhafi regime's weapons depots. Time and time again our teams came across weapons storage sites where we knew MANPADS were stored only to find that these sites had been completely obliterated by NATO strikes. Whatever weapons were in these storage facilities were likely destroyed and were buried under mounds of rubble left behind. While this is good news from a counter-proliferation perspective, it makes coming up with an exact count a challenge to say the least. Additionally, the NATO bombing campaign focused intently on taking out Libya's air defense systems and their corresponding storage sites. We believe that many MANPADS were stored with other anti-aircraft artillery at these facilities and were likely destroyed during the campaign.

Third, many of these weapons were taken by militias and anti-Qadhafi forces during the fighting. The Libyan opposition - including militias and private citizens - removed significant quantities of weapons from weapons depots, including MANPADS during the uprising. As has been well documented by journalists on the ground, Libyan rebels often took whatever weapons were available. Despite the fact that MANPADS are only designed to target aircraft, have little utility against opposing ground forces, and are dangerous for the user when used this way, we know that opposition forces regularly used MANPADS in direct combat against Qadhafi loyalists. This is significant because it means that many of the unaccounted for missiles may have been used in the fighting.
Furthermore, because many militias believe MANPADS have some utility in ground combat, many militia groups remain reluctant to relinquish them.

As the process of demobilizing militias continues, we expect to see many of these weapons being turned over to the control of the Libyan national army. While the integration process has been slow and challenging, at the very least, we believe this means that the large stockpiles of weapons under militia control have remained inside Libya - albeit outside the control of the Libyan government. We don't have precise numbers on how many are under militia control. But given that these were the forces that were often the first to liberate weapons sites from Qadhafi control, we believe that a substantial number are held by these militias.

Yet clearly we cannot rule out that some weapons may have leaked out of Libya. Our efforts in Libya are therefore designed to reduce risk and mitigate the threat as effectively and comprehensively as we can. This is why the United States and the international community have been working with countries in the region to improve border security and improve their aviation security. We are working closely with NATO, the EU, and the UN to coordinate our efforts on the ground and across the region. To date, the United Kingdom has pledged at least £1 million pounds and, as mentioned, has provided a team of technical experts to support and coordinate activities. The Netherlands has contributed €900,000 Euros. Germany has contributed €750,000 Euros. And Canada has pledged $1.6 million Canadian dollars. Other countries, such as France and Italy have also made significant contributions.

The work to secure and recover Libya's weapons stockpiles is a long-term effort. Now that we have completed our initial rapid sweep across the country, we are entering what we call Phase 2. This involves helping the new Libyan government conduct a full inventory of all weapons stockpiles, as well as assisting them to improve border security to help detect and interdict illicit activity.
In December I travelled to Tripoli to get an update on our progress and to discuss the transition to this new phase in our efforts with the new Libyan government. And from my visit, and from the experience of our teams on the ground, I can tell you the new Libyan government is firmly committed to addressing this issue.

In early December, the Libyan government signed a Conventional Weapons Destruction Technical Arrangement, which provides the basis for expansion into Phase 2 operations. This was the first bilateral agreement the new Libyan Ministry of Defense has signed and is a key indicator of the new Libyan governments' desire to comprehensively address weapons security. This agreement also created the Libya Center for Mine Action or LMAC, which was named as the Ministry of Defense's (MOD) lead for these issues. Our contract specialists will help support the LMAC. The LMAC is also functioning as the central point for coordination of international efforts to assist the Libyans in conventional weapons destruction.

Our conventional weapons destruction efforts are also serving to support Libya's new government. Our Phase 2 efforts will also help aid the Libyan government's efforts to integrate militias and veterans of the fighting. We plan to assist the Libyans to conduct a thorough inventory of all weapons storage areas in Libya to create a full picture of both old, unstable, obsolete, or at-risk, as well as up-to-date weapons and munitions. This is not just about MANPADS, but about all weapons. And it entails helping the Libyans consolidate weapons into secure facilities and assisting them to destroy items that the Libyans deem in excess of their security requirements. Throughout Phase 2, the State Department will also maintain 2 Mobile MANPADS teams which will operate independent of the survey, inventory, and destruction activities. They will respond to any ad-hoc MANPADS discoveries or issues throughout Libya.

Completing an entire survey of Libya's weapons stockpiles, will take time and will require a lot of manpower. It entails an effort to find out exactly how many MANPADS were inside of each of the weapons sites that were targeted by NATO. This is a painstaking process that will require heavy equipment and excavation crews. Additionally, before we can even begin to excavate these sites must be swept for unexploded ordnance from the bombing campaign. To complete this task our funding will help support the hiring of many veterans of the conflict, who will be trained in conventional weapons destruction activities. We believe that this is a win-win for the government of Libya and for the United States. We are helping Libya get a handle on its weapons stockpiles, while at the same time aiding their demobilization efforts.

Once this time-consuming process is completed we plan to transition to a third Phase that will seek to ensure Libya's weapons stockpiles meet modern standards. This involves updating storage facilities, improving security, and assisting the Libyans efforts to implement the most up-to-date stockpile management practices.

This will clearly be a long-term effort and there is a lot of work to do between now and Phase III, but the United States and the international community are committed to assisting the new Libyan government on this path.

To conclude, I believe our efforts in Libya and around the world have demonstrated our strong commitment to addressing the threat posed by shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. While there is no easy solution to the proliferation challenge posed by MANPADS, this Administration and the international community is working vigilantly to take steps to reduce the threat posed by these weapons.

I know in these budget constrained times, State Department assistance programs are under great scrutiny. But our diplomatic and development work saves lives and helps foster stability in every region of the world, which helps strengthen U.S. national security. There is no clearer example of this than our efforts to counter the proliferation of MANPADS. This work, along with our other Conventional Weapons Destruction programs, helps create the conditions for stability to return to war-torn regions. By removing or securing these destabilizing systems, as well as other deadly remnants of war, we are helping children, families, and communities to live in safety and therefore helping war-torn countries recover.
Long Haul for U.S. to Secure Weapons Stockpiles in Libya
by Sara Sorcher - Updated: May 29, 2013

In a sobering update on the effort to secure loose weapons in Libya, a senior State Department official on Thursday said the U.S. still doesn’t know how many antiaircraft missiles are missing from deposed leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s massive stockpile — or even if any of them have slipped across the border.

Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, laid out what promises to be a long haul for the effort to secure these so-called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, in the department's most comprehensive public assessment to date of its ongoing weapons-removal operations in Libya.

Shapiro said the U.S. weapons experts embedded with teams of Libyans on the ground have been able to secure and destroy about 5,000 MANPADS and components. But Libya's former leader is believed to have amassed some 20,000 of these MANPADS over the last four decades of his rule before he was killed in October.

"This raises the question: How many are still missing? The frank answer is: We don't know, and probably never will," Shapiro told an audience at the Stimson Center.

After months of NATO bombing and fighting in Libya left many of Qaddafi's ammunition storage sites unsecured and open to looting, the U.S. pledged $40 million to sweep the country and secure the stockpiles amid fears the surface-to-air missiles could be smuggled out of the country and fall into the hands of those planning terrorist attacks.

The missiles could take down passenger aircraft and cause "devastating loss of life," Shapiro said. "It could also cause significant economic damage."  Even as he touted the Libya mission as the "most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of MANPADS in U.S. history," Shapiro acknowledged the accounting problem that plagues the weapons experts on the ground, where there were scattered empty crates of MANPADS throughout the country during and after the uprising.  "Clearly we cannot rule out that some weapons may have leaked out of Libya," Shapiro said. "Our efforts in Libya are therefore designed to reduce risk and mitigate the threat as effectively and comprehensively as we can."

Collecting the four foot-long missiles that usually weigh less than 30 pounds has proven difficult, because the U.S. doesn't know how many systems were already used in training or military exercises before Qaddafi fell -- or destroyed as a result of improper storage. The teams are now working to "piece together information gained from packing slips in the MANPADS crates," Shapiro said.
Complicating matters further is that the Libyan opposition often took “whatever weapons were available" during the fighting, Shapiro said, noting that militia groups even now remain “reluctant to relinquish them.”

In December, The New York Times reported that the U.S. was in talks with the Libyan government to create a program to buy back the MANPADS from these militias and others who picked them up during the months of fighting.

Asked by National Journal whether the U.S. was pressing ahead with such a program to offer the Libyan government money or assistance to buy back the missiles, Shapiro said he wouldn't comment on acquisition programs "other than to say we're looking at every possible tool to mitigate the threat."
Mark Adams, director of the interagency MANPADS task force, said the U.S.-Libyan teams have gone into more than 120 different ammunition-storage areas -- and more than 1500 bunkers -- that were known to have held all types of weapons, ammunition, and MANPADS.

Now that the U.S. has completed its initial sweep of the country, it will enter a second phase to help the Libyan government conduct a full inventory of all weapons stockpiles and help them improve their own border security to interdict illicit activity. This phase, Adams said, is expected to take up to a year to complete.

It will also require "a lot of manpower," Shapiro said. Finding out exactly how many MANPADS were inside of each of the weapons sites targeted by NATO, Shapiro said, "is a painstaking process that will require heavy equipment and excavation crews." Before the teams can even begin to excavate these sites, they must be swept for unexploded ordnance from the bombing campaign. "To complete this task our funding will help support the hiring of many veterans of the conflict, who will be trained in conventional-weapons destruction activities," Shapiro said.

The third phase will involve updating Libya's weapons-storage facilities and improving security there -- as well as helping the Libyans implement proper stockpile-management practices -- to ensure the country's weapons stockpiles meet modern standards.  "This will clearly be a long-term effort," Shapiro said.

Al-Qaida MANPADs swiped from U.S. aid to rebels?
Biggest antiaircraft missile collection effort in U.S. history
 By Aaron Klein, August 6, 2013

JERUSALEM — Did the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime, aided by U.S.-NATO airstrikes, contribute to the proliferation of anti-aircraft weapons now in the hands of al-Qaida? The question looms amid reports today militants in Yemen shot down an army helicopter flying over the al-Qaida stronghold of Wadi Ubida, killing all eight people on board including a military commander. The AP quoted Yemeni officials saying the helicopter was flying from the capital Sanaa to the province of Marib, with some of those on board contributing to a military force guarding oil installations in the province.

Al-Qaida’s possible accumulation of anti-aircraft weapons likely was bolstered by their efforts in Libya after the fall of Gadhafi’s regime. In a largely unnoticed speech to a think tank seven months before the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, a top State Department official described an unprecedented multi-million-dollar U.S. effort to secure anti-aircraft weapons in Libya following the American-aided war there.

The official, Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, explained how U.S. experts were fully coordinating the collection efforts with the Libyan opposition. He said the efforts were taking place in Benghazi, where a leading U.S. expert was deployed. Shapiro conceded that the Western-backed rebels did not want to give up the weapons, particularly Man-Portable-Air-Defense-Systems, or MANPADS, which were the focus of the weapons collection efforts. Many rebel forces openly included jihadists from al-Qaida organizations. ‘Biggest MANPADS collection effort in U.S. history’ Now Shapiro’s largely unnoticed remarks Feb. 2, 2012, may shed further light on how al-Qaida came across MANPADs.

In his speech seven months before the Benghazi attack, Shapiro stated that “currently in Libya we are engaged in the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation of MANPADS in U.S. history.” Shapiro was addressing a forum at the Stimson Center, a non-profit think tank that describes itself as seeking “pragmatic solutions for some of the most important peace and security challenges around the world.” Shapiro explained Libya had “accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADS of any non-MANPADS producing country in the world.” Shapiro related how then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed to providing $40 million dollars to assist Libya’s efforts to secure and recover its weapons stockpiles.

Of that funding, $3 million went to unspecified nongovernmental organizations who specialize in conventional weapons destruction and stockpile security. The NGOs and a U.S. team coordinated all efforts with Libya’s Transitional National Council, or TNC, said Shapiro. The U.S. team was led by Mark Adams, a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force. Shapiro stated Adams was deployed in August 2011, not to Tripoli where the U.S. maintained an embassy, but to Benghazi. The only U.S. diplomatic presence in Benghazi consisted of the CIA annex and nearby facility that were the targets of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.

Shapiro expounded on the coordination with the TNC. “A fact often overlooked in our response to events in Libya, is that – unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan – we did not have tens of thousands of U.S. forces on the ground, nor did we control movement and access,” he said. “This meant we did not have complete freedom of movement around the country. Our efforts on the ground therefore had to be carefully coordinated and fully supported by the TNC.” He said the rebels were reluctant to relinquish their weapons. “Many of these weapons were taken by militias and anti-Gadhafi forces during the fighting,” he said. “Furthermore, because many militias believe MANPADS have some utility in ground combat, many militia groups remain reluctant to relinquish them.” Shapiro said the U.S. efforts consisted of three phases. Phase I entailed an effort to rapidly survey, secure and disable loose MANPADS across the country.

 “To accomplish this, we immediately deployed our Quick Reaction Force, which are teams made up of civilian technical specialists,” he said. Phase 2 efforts were to help aid the Libyan government to integrate militias and veterans of the fighting, including consolidating weapons into secure facilities and assisting in the destruction of items that the Libyans deemed in excess of their security requirements. Such actions were likely not supported by the jihadist rebels. The third phase would have seen the U.S. helping to ensure the Libyan met modern standards, including updating storage facilities, improving security and implementing safety management practices. The U.S. efforts clearly failed. In April, the United Nations released a report revealing that weapons from Libya to extremists were proliferating at an “alarming rate,” fueling conflicts in Mali, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.

 - See more at:

U.S., Libyan weapons specialists dispose of country’s weapons
The large amount of weapons that went missing during Libya’s civil war has fueled fears that the material could fall into the wrong hands. (Reuters)

By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES - 11 December 2011

TRIPOLI -- Hundreds of pounds of explosives in Libya stockpiled during the years of the Muammar Qaddafi-led regime have been disposed of by a team of U.S. and Libyan weapons experts.
The now-buried weapons include about 5000 surface-to-air missiles and some 1,300 pounds (600 kilograms) of ordnance.

Qaddafi had a stockpile of 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles before the revolt against him broke out in February, AFP news agency reported.  “We have identified, disbanded and secured more than 5,000 MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems), while thousands more have been destroyed during NATO bombing,” Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs told a group of reporters.

“We are working side by side with the National Transitional Council (NTC) to reduce the threat of these loose weapons,” Shapiro said after talks in Tripoli with officials from the ruling NTC, the interior and defense ministries.

There is a “serious concern about the threat posed by MANPADS... about the potential threat MANPADS can pose to civil aviation. However our efforts with the NTC to reduce these threats are already paying off.”  Shapiro said contractors on the ground were still in the process of assessing how many missiles are still missing, AFP reported.

A large amount of weapons went missing during Libya’s civil war which erupted in February and resulted in the capture and subsequent killing of Muammar Qaddafi by opposition fighters in October.  The missing weapons have fueled fears that the material may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Libya, under Qaddafi, was reportedly the country with the biggest stock of MANPADS outside of nations that produce these weapons. The missiles, mainly SAM-7, were acquired in the 1970s and 1980s.

Shapiro said the United States has already spent six million dollars in its efforts to secure these weapons.

Report: CIA Polygraphs Operatives to Stop Benghazi Leaks
The Atlantic Wire
By Elspeth ReeveAug. 2, 2013

NEW YORK -- The CIA is subjecting operatives working in Libya to polygraphs as much as once a month to stop them from leaking to the press or Congress about Benghazi, CNN's Jake Tapper and Drew Griffin report. Usually, CIA operatives are polygraphed only once every three or four years. "It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career," CNN reports. The CIA told CNN that it has been cooperating with congressional oversight committees and "CIA employees are always free to speak to Congress if they want."

The story suggests the CIA wants to keep its operations in Benghazi secret, not specifically what happened the night of the attacks. It was not until weeks after the Benghazi attacks that it was reported the diplomatic facility there was mostly a CIA operation. Two former Navy SEALs who died during the attack were reportedly CIA contractors. Now CNN reports that 21 people were working at the CIA annex on the night of the attacks, while a total of 35 people were working at the mission. (This tracks with estimates in earlier reporting.) What were they doing there? That's been the subject of much speculation for months. In March, Sen. Rand Paul floated the theory that the Obama administration was covering up a gun-running operation to arm Syrian rebels. In May, Paul speculated on CNN. "I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria."

The CNN report offers a nod to that:
The State Department told CNN in an e-mail that it was only helping the new Libyan government destroy weapons deemed "damaged, aged or too unsafe retain," and that it was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries. But the State Department also clearly told CNN, they "can't speak for any other agencies."

On Thursday, House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa subpoenaed more State Department documents related to Benghazi. Issa is seeking interviews and documents collected by an independent review board. The initial focus of the Benghazi controversy was who wrote the talking points for then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to use on five Sunday shows after the attacks. But as Paul's comments show, the controversy seems to be evolving.

Reprinted with permission from the Atlantic Wire. The original story can be found here.