Eli Lake, reporting in the Daily Beast:
In the nearly 20 months since the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, al Qaeda operatives and allied terrorists have flocked to Libya, making the fragile North African country a hub for those seeking to wage jihad from north Africa, current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials tell The Daily Beast.
Not only does al Qaeda host Ansar al-Sharia, one of the militias responsible for the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But U.S. intelligence now assesses that leaders from at least three regional al Qaeda affiliates—al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and members of the organization of Al-Mulathameen Brigade loyal to Algerian terrorist, Mokhtar BelMokhtar—have all established havens in the lawless regions of Libya outside the control of the central government.
One U.S. military contractor working on counter-terrorism in Africa summed up the situation in Libya today as simply, “Scumbag Woodstock.” The country has attracted that star-studded roster of notorious terrorists and fanatics seeking to wage war on the West.
An American counter-terrorism official used a different metaphor to describe the situation. “Libya today plays host to members and associates of several AQ-allied groups, in some ways becoming a jihadist melting pot,” this official told The Daily Beast. “These groups haven’t united under the same banner, but the ad hoc links and intermittent cooperation among them are worrisome, especially as some of these groups have made no secret of their desire to conduct attacks beyond Libya’s borders.”
Libya has become a way station for terrorists entering the Syrian civil war. But beyond that, what are the leaders of these terrorist groups doing in Libya? It could be that Libya has become a failed state and basing operations in that country makes a lot of sense if you’re a terrorist looking to strike foreign targets:
The State Department’s annual report on counter-terrorism was also particularly blunt about why Libya was such an attractive destination for terrorists. The many factors listed in the report that contributed to Libya’s permissive environment for terrorists included: “a central government with weak institutions and only tenuous control over its expansive territory; the ubiquity of uncontrolled weapons and ammunition; porous and inaccessible borders; heavily armed militias and tribes with varying loyalties and agendas; high unemployment among young males along with slow-moving economic improvement; divisions between the country’s regions, towns, and tribes; political paralysis due to infighting and distrust among and between Libya’s political actors; and the absence of a functioning police force or national army.”
A reminder of the failure of Libya’s government to exert control over wide swaths of territory came last week when gunmen stormed Libya’s parliament building.
The administration, no doubt, has enough to worry about with the select committee turning over rocks looking at what happened in Benghazi. But they also can’t be happy with the inevitable highlighting of their total failure at nation building in Libya. Obama’s Libyan adventure was touted as an effort to save civilian lives and bring about a Democratic government. The reality is, the government set up by the administration and their NATO allies controls very little territory and civilians are in even more danger than they were when Qaddaffi was in power.
Yes — but at least we now have a “smart” foreign policy.