Has al-Qaeda taken over a secret US base in Libya?

posted at 10:01 am on April 23, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When losing ground in a war, it’s not unusual to see an enemy make use of one’s facilities and equipment. The report from Eli Lake at the Daily Beast only surprises because the US has insisted that we are not losing ground in the war against al-Qaeda, and still insists that the decapitation of the Moammar Qaddafi regime was sound policy:

A key jihadist leader and longtime member of al Qaeda has taken control of a secretive training facility set up by U.S. special operations forces on the Libyan coastline to help hunt down Islamic militants, according to local media reports, Jihadist web forums, and U.S. officials.

In the summer of 2012, American Green Berets began refurbishing a Libyan military base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli in order to hone the skills of Libya’s first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters. Less than two years later, that training camp is now being used by groups with direct links to al Qaeda to foment chaos in post-Qaddafi Libya.

Last week, the Libyan press reported that the camp (named “27” for the kilometer marker on the road between Tripoli and Tunis) was now under the command of Ibrahim Ali Abu Bakr Tantoush, a veteran associate of Osama bin Laden who was first designated as part of al Qaeda’s support network in 2002 by the United States and the United Nations. The report said he was heading a group of Salifist fighters from the former Libyan base.

In other words, Tantoush is now the chief of a training camp the U.S. and Libyan governments had hoped would train Libyan special operations forces to catch militants like Tantoush.

Again, this is one sign of lost ground, and not exactly a novel one for North Africa, where wars have taken place for millenia. We left behind our diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, for instance, when we pulled out after the terrorist attacks on both on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2012. The rest of the West had already left the city long before, more cognizant of the terrorist threat than the US despite months of warnings that flowed into Washington about the danger and the escalating attacks on the ground. Those Western facilities are not likely to sit unused, except of course for those destroyed in the attacks.

By eliminating Qaddafi, we created a vacuum for our enemies, whom we already knew were organizing in the areas outside of Tripoli. But even after the Benghazi attack, we were still trying to fix the problem — hence, Camp 27, which is nearer to the capital:

One U.S. official who worked on the program said the U.S. Special Forces began to refurbish the base in the summer of 2012, before the 9/11 anniversary attack in Benghazi. The actual training, however, did not begin until the fall of 2012. One U.S. defense official noted the initial program at Camp 27 endeavored to train 100 Libyan special operations soldiers. But even this modest goal was never really in reach.

“The program has not achieved the outcomes that we hoped that it would and the Libyans hoped it would,” said Carter Ham, the now-retired four-star general who led U.S. Africa Command when the initial training program was established. While Ham said he was not aware of the latest reports that the base was now in the hands of an al Qaeda figure, he nonetheless acknowledged that myriad challenges—from the uncertainty in the leadership of the Libyan military to security on the ground—made it difficult to sustain the special operation forces training.

“The selection process for what Libyan unit and what Libyan soldiers would participate was probably not as rigorous as we would have liked it to have been,” Ham continued. “But this was a Libyan decision and they had to decide what unit and what individuals to enroll in the program.”

Look how well that’s worked out in Libya. The government there can barely hold its own in the capital, and has almost no writ outside of it. Lake quotes David Gartenstein-Ross’ prediction that the Libyan government will likely expel the terrorists due to its proximity to the capital, but they haven’t done so yet despite knowing about it. This is the same government whose Defense Ministry couldn’t clear its own street of militias demanding a more Islamist line from Tripoli last year.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports on a “citizens committee” report that accuses the US of causing Benghazi through its support of the radical Islamists that Qaddafi was fighting at the time:

The Citizens Commission on Benghazi, a self-selected group of former top military officers, CIA insiders and think-tankers, declared Tuesday in Washington that a seven-month review of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack has determined that it could have been prevented – if the U.S. hadn’t been helping to arm al-Qaeda militias throughout Libya a year earlier.

‘The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,’ Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.

She blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop half of a $1 billion United Arab Emirates arms shipment from reaching al-Qaeda-linked militants. …

The commission and AIM filed 85 document requests under the Freedom Of Information Act, hitting the Department of Defense, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency with demand after demand.

But most of its information has come from insiders with deep knowledge of the flow of weapons in Libya and elsewhere in the African Maghreb.

Some of the claims are a little far-fetched, as the Mail notes:

Some of the group’s claims strain credibility, including the assertion that the Obama administration’s early effort to blame the Benghazi attack on a protest against a crude anti-Muslim YouTube video ‘appears to have been well-coordinated with U.S.Muslim Brotherhood organizations as well as Islamic state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).’

One does not have to go that far in assessing American policy in Libya vis-a-vis al-Qaeda. We knew that AQ operated in eastern Libya for years, as recruitment for their operations in Iraq relied heavily on Libyan organizations. In this case, Qaddafi and the West had a common enemy, and AQ was part of the rebellion against his regime. We picked the worst time and the worst place to decapitate a regime, and then deliberately kept boots off the ground and failed to shape the outcome. A failed state was the inevitable result.


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We picked the worst time and the worst place to decapitate a regime, and then deliberately kept boots off the ground and failed to shape the outcome. A failed state was the inevitable result.

And yet our government’s leaders expected us to stupidly buy the idea that Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous attack over a YouTube video and not an act of terrorism. Remember that as the filthy pig struts around and coyly plays with the idea of running for President in 2016.

Happy Nomad on April 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Leading from behand guarantees you come in second, or third, or fourth,…

And… Bishop!

DublOh7 on April 23, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Good to know we plowed a $hitload of money into it fixing it up so it would be in good order for when Obama let the terrorists take it over.

HopeHeFails on April 23, 2014 at 10:14 AM

As it always is with governments, ‘no good deeds go unpunished’.

vnvet on April 23, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Clinton did want to end war in the Balkans and so invested time and political capital in it. Carter, at least, was embarrassed by the hostages in Tehran and so invested in a rescue mission, despite it becoming a fiasco. Plus he did respond by boycotting the Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (wrong move but at least a response, I’m a generous grader.) LBJ and Truman did respond to communist expansion.

Aside from the occasional drone strike which seems to have little effect, what has Dear Liar done to counter growing militant Islam? If he were on the other side, what would he be doing differently?

rbj on April 23, 2014 at 10:15 AM

And… Bishop!

DublOh7 on April 23, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Bet you wish there was an edit function.

So which YT vid can they blame this on, a Magpul advertising bit?

Bishop on April 23, 2014 at 10:17 AM

In this case, Qaddafi and the West had a common enemy, and AQ was part of the rebellion against his regime.

The problem was that AQ and Obama/Clinton had a common enemy – Qaddafi, who feared Bush enough to give up his WMDs. That “cooperation” trumps everything – a common terrorist enemy, a common proto-Communist enemy, and a century of special relationships.

Steve Eggleston on April 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Well, at least we know where they are, and what to target, right?

OldEnglish on April 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Some of the claims are a little far-fetched

why?
because this admins actions thus far have been so transparent and legal?
fast and furious ring a bell??

dmacleo on April 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM

and I am getting tired of people talking about the video without mentioning that it, after never being seen in months per its youtube count, was suddenly shown in cairo (where the protests actually started) with the purpose of fomenting strife that was then used to cover benghazi.
stop ignoring cairo.

dmacleo on April 23, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Wait, back up a second – we’re training Libyans in how to be special forces?

Next you’ll tell me we’re giving them advanced weaponry, like SAM’s and stuff.

Lance Corvette on April 23, 2014 at 10:43 AM

The problem was that AQ and Obama/Clinton had a common enemy – Qaddafi, who feared Bush enough to give up his WMDs. That “cooperation” trumps everything – a common terrorist enemy, a common proto-Communist enemy, and a century of special relationships.

Steve Eggleston on April 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Under previous Presidents, Libya knew there would be consequences for terrorist activity (Operation El Dorado Canyon ring a bell?).
Under the rat-eared wonder, terrorist attacks are dismissed as the result of videos. The dragging of the corpse of a US Ambassador through the streets of Benghazi is depicted by the Secretary of State as Libyans rushing “Chris” to the hospital.

It is small wonder that Libya has become a failed state. The only thing that keeps states on the edge from toppling into anarchy is if the anarchists think they’ll face the wrath of the international community. Susan Rice lying her ass off about YouTube videos sent all the message that was needed.

Happy Nomad on April 23, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Seems that REW(onder)’s plan is working. Destroy America.

avagreen on April 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM

In this case, Qaddafi and the West had a common enemy, and AQ was part of the rebellion against his regime. We picked the worst time and the worst place to decapitate a regime, and then deliberately kept boots off the ground and failed to shape the outcome. A failed state was the inevitable result.

The West’s enemies, and Qaddafi’s, were not Barack Obama’s enemies. In fact, Obama viewed Qaddafi as his enemy precisely because he had aligned himself with the West and was assisting in the suppression of al Qaeda. A quick review will establish Obama’s hostility for America’s allies under prior administrations, for example, his support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against American ally Mubarak.

We should not be surprised that Obama has intentionally undercut our allies in difficult places in the world, since he viewed our prior foreign policy as unjustified suppression of the Third World and simply evil. That he is so wildly mistaken regarding the consequences of his foreign policy gambits should come as no surprise either, given his delusional notions regarding the nature of the world in general and the motivations of America’s enemies in particular.

novaculus on April 23, 2014 at 10:59 AM

…Smart Power!

KOOLAID2 on April 23, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Fast & Furious in Libya…

workingclass artist on April 23, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Failure is the inevitable result with everything the White House gang does.

crankyoldlady on April 23, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Old news, nothing to see here, move along…

oscarwilde on April 23, 2014 at 11:04 AM

And we wanted to do the same thing in Syria – until Russia stopped us.

Yet we agitated and agitated and sent McCain to pal around with the terrorists in Syria.

If you wonder why isolationism and incredulity of our government’s agitprop grows… there is your answer.

antisense on April 23, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Remember when we wondered aloud why Stephens, a US Ambassador, was in Benghazi, a unsecured consulate, on the anniversary of 911 at all, rather than in a lock down secure embassy as per State Department protocol?

thatsafactjack on April 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

a…an…typo.

thatsafactjack on April 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” ~H.R. Clinton, Secretary of State testifying before congress regarding the slaughter of four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, at the Benghazi US consulate by al-Quada.

thatsafactjack on April 23, 2014 at 11:11 AM

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” ~H.R. Clinton, Secretary of State testifying before congress regarding the slaughter of four Americans, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, at the Benghazi US consulate by al-Quada.

thatsafactjack on April 23, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Well, duh, why else was this story so quickly preempted by a story about some prep school kids getting busted for drugs? No other reason other than for the psychological impact of burying the story by laying a mundane, regional interest only non story on top of it.

oscarwilde on April 23, 2014 at 11:23 AM

Under the Obama Doctrine – Give Al-Qaeda whatever they want – it doesn’t take much effort on Al-Qaeda’s part to “take over” any US property (especially foreign property).

Karmi on April 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Some of the group’s claims strain credibility, including the assertion that the Obama administration’s early effort to blame the Benghazi attack on a protest against a crude anti-Muslim YouTube video ‘appears to have been well-coordinated with U.S.Muslim Brotherhood organizations as well as Islamic state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).’

I don’t think this is so far-fetched. The MB has infiltrated this administration and “Islamophobia” is a convenient story.

Connie on April 23, 2014 at 11:55 AM

So which YT vid can they blame this on, a Magpul advertising bit?

Bishop on April 23, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Probably one of those “Downfall” parodies.

CurtZHP on April 23, 2014 at 12:23 PM

“Has al-Qaeda taken over a secret US base in Libya?”

If it has, the American public will be the last to know and not until God’s gift to mirrors has retired. Even then, Obama will scream “raaaaacism”, and blame the RINOS and, rather than be called racists, RINOS will accept the blame.

MaiDee on April 23, 2014 at 2:06 PM

Some of the group’s claims strain credibility, including the assertion that the Obama administration’s early effort to blame the Benghazi attack on a protest against a crude anti-Muslim YouTube video ‘appears to have been well-coordinated with U.S.Muslim Brotherhood organizations as well as Islamic state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).’

You will sleep better not believing it Ed.

BL@KBIRD on April 23, 2014 at 2:10 PM

OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG

Deja VU bigtime – I’ve been swimming at Kilometer27 beach (albeit just shy of 50 years ago)…………..of course no encampment of any kind was there then – but I know that location well…………….

Katfish on April 23, 2014 at 5:38 PM