NYT: Obama admin approved secret weapons deals that ended up arming Islamists in Libya

posted at 11:31 am on December 6, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Oopsie! In what has to be one of the least-shocking outcomes of Barack Obama’s Libyan adventure, the New York Times reports that his administration secretly gave approval of weapons shipments to Libyan resistance fighters, only to learn that the weapons ended up arming Islamist terror networks.  Who could have seen that coming, right?

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.

No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.

Maybe we can offer an alternative headline for this: Reporting that might have been valuable before the election. Tammy Bruce tweeted:

This is yet another indictment of the Obama approach to decapitating regimes.  In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Qaddafi, the administration didn’t hesitate to favorably compare the outcome in Libya to that in Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of American troops were used to secure the gains after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  The NYT provides a post-mortem on that strategy courtesy of a former State Department adviser on the region:

The Qatari assistance to fighters viewed as hostile by the United States demonstrates the Obama administration’s continuing struggles in dealing with the Arab Spring uprisings, as it tries to support popular protest movements while avoiding American military entanglements. Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations, but also means they may play out in ways that conflict with American interests.

“To do this right, you have to have on-the-ground intelligence and you have to have experience,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser who is now dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, part of Johns Hopkins University. “If you rely on a country that doesn’t have those things, you are really flying blind. When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”

And when you don’t have any way to control what happens on the ground, you can bet that “control” will be the first thing to go.  The US knew that Islamist terrorists operated in eastern Libya for years before Obama came into office.  Al-Qaeda recruited heavily in the region for its fight against the US in Iraq.  Decapitating Qaddafi meant losing pressure on AQ and other Islamist terror networks, and flooding the area with uncontrolled weapons almost guaranteed that the already-organized terror networks would hijack them from other less-organized resistance movements.

But this brings up another important question.  The Obama administration knew that the Islamist terror networks ended up controlling many if not most of these weapons, and had become much more dangerous as a result.  If that’s the case, how could they possibly have left the consulate in Benghazi as unprotected as it was?


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