Home inContext Concern Over Libya’s Loose Weapons Grows

Concern Over Libya’s Loose Weapons Grows

Samara Greenberg

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Libya this week in a show of support for the country’s transitional government. During the trip, Clinton pledged approximately $11 million in new aid, increasing the total amount of U.S. aid to Libya since the uprising began in February to about $135 million. The new assistance will be geared towards medical care for the wounded and tracking and destroying former dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s vast stockpiles of weaponry that many fear have fallen into the wrong hands.

But there is reason to believe that those weapons have already reached terrorist groups. According to the National Transition Council, thousands of weapons — including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles — went missing during the fight against Qaddafi. Since July, Israeli officials have been warning that weapons from Libya are being transferred to Hamas, and Egypt last week conceded that it has arrested five groups of smugglers transporting Libyan weapons through Egypt and towards the border with Israel.

Libyan rebels display unused rockets left behind by pro-Qaddafi forces.

The addition of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles into Gaza would be a game changer between Israel and Hamas, as Israel frequently patrols the Strip by air. In light of the development, recent reports have noted that Israel will be installing a new anti-missile system on all Israeli civilian airliners, although a timeline of when the project will be completed has yet to be announced. The new technology is the world’s only anti-missile system that can be mounted on a passenger liner.

Of course, the weapons could go elsewhere as well, for example, to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, posing a major problem to Coalition forces there. The same type of antiaircraft missiles were a large part of the Afghan mujahideen’s defeat of the Soviet Union after the latter invaded the tribal country in 1979. As Washington works to assist the National Transition Council’s development into a responsible and stable government, it would do well to make sure that all unaccounted weapons don’t fall into the hands of those that can harm America and its allies.