The dark days of the “Arab Spring” may soon be upon us. According to the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, al-Qaeda’s north African branch (or al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM), has acquired a stockpile of weapons in Libya as a result of the fighting, including “small arms or machine-guns, or certain surface-to-air missiles which are extremely dangerous because they pose a risk to flights over the territory.”
Kerchove also noted that the Arab uprisings could lead to the release of prisoners in countries that may include jihadist fighters, and to the dismantling of security forces, creating a vacuum. Moreover, Kerchove warned that if the results of the uprisings fail to live up to expectations, al-Qaeda may be handed the perfect opportunity to spread and increase its ideological reach. “Democracy does not happen overnight…. Let’s hope it would not lead to some disappointment in which al Qaeda…might be attractive once again,” Kerchove said.
Libyan rebels celebrating
In light of the recent news, on Wednesday, delegates from the African countries of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger convened with terrorism experts for a two-day security meeting – the first of its kind. Noting that he doesn’t want the region “to become a war zone,” Malian Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga said that the region would need assistance in surveillance, intelligence, and training. Indeed, in addition to the threat of AQIM, hundreds of armed Tuareg people from Niger and Mali who fought in Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s army are crossing back into their countries, posing a serious threat to those areas.
Risks are inherently involved in any uprising or revolution. Who will take control? Will the people receive the desired results? Will rebels or terrorists fill a leadership vacuum? Of course, only time will answer those questions. But what that means is Washington should do everything in its power to ensure a favorable outcome not only for Americans, but also for the people of the Middle East seeking a representative government and new life.