The more I read about this particular aspect of the Libyan conflict, the more I just shake my head. If there are 20,000 MANPADS in this country, and it has been torn apart by a civil war that we are assisting in, then why are we not putting more of an effort into locating and securing every MANPAD there is? How is assigning ‘5 contractors’ to the problem an effective solution? lol I mean contractors are good, but are five guys going to be able to physically accomplish the task of actually securing these things?
Or are these five contractors there to just train Libyans with the hopes that they ‘might’ locate and turn them in to a secure location? I say might, because if you look at the economics of the situation, either they could locate and turn them in for free, or they could sell them on the black market and make a good little profit.
The other reason why I mention the economics of this type of deal, is that who is the command and control of all of the field units of such a rag tag army of rebels? Are we seriously saying that there is any kind of control at all with this motley crew? And especially in the beginning stages of the war when these weapons depots were first getting ransacked? Ha! I will say this, I guarantee that these things have found their way out into the black market.
But probably the most concerning aspect of this story, is that Al Qaeda has a presence in Libya. And they would certainly have an interest in these rocket launchers. Oh, and did I mention that many of the suicide bombers in Iraq that killed our troops were from Libya? So to me, how could anyone assume that Al Qaeda ‘has not’ put their grubby little hands all over these things? pfffft.
So what does this all mean? Well, if we start seeing helicopters being shot out of the sky in Afghanistan, that might be a sign. Or I imagine some key airline passenger jets will be shot down using these things. I mean there are all sorts of uses for this kind of weapon, and it was incredibly irresponsible of us to not instantly recognize this issue very early on and effectively deal with it.
Didn’t we learn anything from Iraq? The insurgents there ransacked the arms depots right after the invasion, and the scene was akin to what happened with the looters in Walmart during hurricane Katrina. All because we did not make it a priority to secure those depots. The result? Lots and lots of IEDs made from artillery rounds captured from those depots. –Matt
U.S. ramps up weapons search in Libya
September 16, 2011
The United States is taking an increasingly active role to secure thousands of rocket launchers, mines and small arms from Muammar Qaddafi’s once vast arsenal in Libya and prevent them from fueling an insurgency or falling into the hands of al Qaeda or other extremist militants operating across North Africa, government officials said Friday.
As an urgent measure, the Obama administration is sending several additional weapons experts to Libya to help train local units to locate and destroy weapons, the officials told The Associated Press. The top focus is on the estimated 20,000 shoulder-launched missiles called MANPADs which Qaddafi assembled during his four-decade rule. The weapon can be used to shoot down helicopters or civil jetliners.
“My team has no higher priority than addressing this threat,” said Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. “We are utilizing every possible tool to reduce the availability of loose missiles from Libya.”
The decision to increase weapons-related aid comes after U.S. officials received a request Friday from Libya’s National Transitional Council for greater assistance in securing Qaddafi’s former stocks of conventional weapons. The deposed Libyan dictator, who is still at large, halted his weapons of mass destruction programs in 2004. U.S. and international officials believe his leftover stocks of chemical and nuclear material are safe — and in a form that cannot be quickly be weaponized.
But so-called MANPADs pose a serious danger. While many of the aging rockets may not work, the Soviet-era man-portable air defense systems require no special training to operate and officials say prices have fallen on the regional black market, suggesting some of Qaddafi’s stores have been sold. The country’s new leaders, who are struggling to establish a government, have failed to secure many of the weapons caches. Witnesses have watched looters, former rebel fighters or anyone with a truck carry them away.
Already, the U.S. has two technical experts in Libya, training the Western-backed rebel authorities in weapons destruction and planning to embed with NTC units that will scour the desert for weapons trafficking. Officials said they will now be augmented by several more contractors, creating several additional Libyan teams.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans, the U.S. officials said the teams would initially seek to secure as many remaining sites as possible. That would include the large weapons depots of Gardabiya, east of Sirte, and Jufra, in the center of the country, once rebels wrest control of the sites from forces still loyal to Qaddafi. Later, the teams will proceed more methodically to round up stolen weapons and assess long-term security needs.
Some experts say the administration hasn’t moved fast enough.
Fred Abrahams, a special adviser for Human Rights Watch, said groups have been pushing Libyan rebels, the U.S. government and NATO for weeks to do more to fight weapons proliferation. “They all really missed the boat,” he told the AP. “We’re seeing some progress now but of course so much is already gone.”
For depots that already have been looted, Abrahams said that Libyan authorities should work with local brigades to turn in land mines, surface-to-air missiles and other “unnecessary weapons” to a central storehouse that would be easier to monitor — perhaps with U.N. support.
Journalists and human rights groups have discovered huge weapons depots around Tripoli since the former rebels swept into the capital Aug. 21. Many of the sites remain poorly guarded.
But administration officials said the U.S. has been working with rebels since April to coordinate a strategy. A U.S. government arms expert has been working with opposition leaders in the former rebel capital of Benghazi, while the State Department budgeted $3 million to hire two international weapons disposal teams to locate and destroy MANPADs, land mines and other munitions.
Due to the civil war, the international teams only operated in the east of the country and U.S. officials concede that they’ve only destroyed a “handful” of MANPADs. But stocks are probably far reduced from their estimated peak of 20,000 because some were secured by the NTC, destroyed by NATO airstrikes, or stolen by rebels and used incorrectly during the fighting, officials say.
NATO forces, continuing to go after the holdout loyalist forces, said they hit several surface-to-air missile systems with airstrikes earlier this week.