You don’t hear much about Libya in the news these days. Our beloved President shredded the War Powers Act in order to unilaterally launch a military operation there, which lasted far, far longer than any of his original estimates. This came to a head with the violent execution of drape-rod dictator Moammar Qaddafi, who (in my estimation) really had it coming, and was more dangerous in his dotage than some analysts believed.
Why couldn’t this have been done with the proper involvement of Congress, at an earlier moment when the Libyan opposition had the old monster bottled up in Tripoli? Who knows? The important thing is that Qaddafi’s dead. Mission accomplished. Cut and print. Roll credits.
Shouldn’t we be a mite curious about what happens to Libya now? Well, some people are, and they just produced an intelligence report and began circulating it on Capitol Hill. As reported by Fox News, it’s not a cheerful read:
An advance copy of the report entitled “A View to Extremist Currents In Libya” and obtained by Fox News, states that extremist views are gaining ground in the north African country and suggests a key figure emerging in Libya formerly tied to al Qaeda has not changed his stripes.
“Despite early indications that the Libyan revolution might be a largely secular undertaking … the very extremist currents that shaped the philosophies of Libya Salafists and jihadis like (Abd al-Hakim) Belhadj appear to be coalescing to define the future of Libya,” wrote Michael S. Smith II, a principal and counterterrorism adviser for Kronos LLC, the strategic advisory firm that prepared the report.
The Salafists are the guys who make the Muslim Brotherhood look like reasonable moderates. They’re doing really well in Egypt these days, too. Who’s this Belhadj guy?
Belhadj is considered one of the most powerful militia commanders in Libya as head of the Tripoli Military Council. As Fox News reported earlier this year, Belhadj is reported to be a former emir of an al Qaeda affiliate known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group or LIFG. Founded in 1995 to set up an Islamic state or emirate inside Libya, it waged jihad against the regime of former Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.
On Nov. 3, 2007, senior al Qaeda leaders announced that LIFG had officially joined Usama bin Laden’s network, according to the State Department which designated LIFG as a terrorist organization.
Belhadj, who joined the group at its inception, had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He was arrested in Malaysia in February 2004, reportedly interrogated by the CIA, before he was sent home to Libya. He was released from prison in 2009 as part of a rehabilitation program.
(Emphasis mine.) Well, the Obama Administration must be all over this, right? They’re not cool with al-Qaeda taking over Libya, are they? After all, they spend a lot of time boasting about how they killed Osama bin Laden.
This summer, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked by Fox News about Belhadj, his connections to LIFG and whether he had a place within the Libyan transitional government.
“They’re going to have to make their own decisions as all of these countries who have been in transition recently have had to make — whether past action, past affiliation meets the smell test within the principles that they’ve laid out,” Nuland replied.
Oh. So it’s okay if the new Libyan government decides al-Qaeda passes its smell test?
During the Libyan operation, we heard there might be “flickers” of al-Qaeda among the Libyan opposition. We finally know what a “flicker” is, and it sounds more like a bonfire:
Smith emphasized that traditionally Libyan operatives have been central to the al Qaeda mission.
“Libyans have been featured prominently in the history of core al Qaeda. Libyan LIFG member Abu Yahya al-Libi is regarded as core al Qaeda’s top Sharia official and many analysts anticipated he would be appointed bin Laden’s successor. His brother is Abd al-Wahad al-Qayid, a founding member of the LIFG who was one of the six LIFG leaders who authored the group’s corrective studies while imprisoned in Libya.”
The Kronos report says that “Libya is of such strategic interest” to al Qaeda that for years it was its own entity separate from its north Africa affiliate — al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Libya was considered important to al Qaeda because of its geographic proximity to Egypt and its perceived ability to “affect the jihadist political situation in Egypt.”
Well, the joke’s on al-Qaeda, because the “jihadist political situation in Egypt” appears to be getting along just fine without Libya.
Lawmakers reading the report are asked to consider “whether the transitional government in Libya is showing a willingness to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism operations and whether the number of al-Qaeda affiliated militants has grown in Libya since the death of Qaddafi.” Those are some really good questions. Hopefully they were put to the Libyan rebels before we placed the air forces of the United States and NATO at their disposal.