Monday, August 29, 2011

Has Libya Already Fallen to al-Qaeda?

According to Asia Times, the Libyan rebel commander now in charge in Tripoli and his colleagues elsewhere throughout the country are al-Qaeda assets.

His name is Abdelhakim Belhaj. Some in the Middle East might have, but few in the West and across the world would have heard of him.

Time to catch up. Because the story of how an al-Qaeda asset turned out to be the top Libyan military commander in still war-torn Tripoli is bound to shatter - once again - that wilderness of mirrors that is the "war on terror", as well as deeply compromising the carefully constructed propaganda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) "humanitarian" intervention in Libya. 

...Abdelhakim Belhaj, aka Abu Abdallah al-Sadek, is a Libyan jihadi. Born in May 1966, he honed his skills with the mujahideen in the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan.

...After 9/11, Belhaj moved to Pakistan and also to Iraq, where he befriended none other than ultra-nasty Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - all this before al-Qaeda in Iraq pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and turbo-charged its gruesome practices.

In Iraq, Libyans happened to be the largest foreign Sunni jihadi contingent, only losing to the Saudis. Moreover, Libyan jihadis have always been superstars in the top echelons of "historic" al-Qaeda.

 In 2003, Belhaj was finally arrested in Malaysia - and then transferred, extraordinary rendition-style, to a secret Bangkok prison, and duly tortured.

In 2004, the Americans decided to send him as a gift to Libyan intelligence - until he was freed by the Gaddafi regime in March 2010, along with other 211 "terrorists"
, in a public relations coup advertised with great fanfare.

The orchestrator was no less than Saif Islam al-Gaddafi - the modernizing/London School of Economics face of the regime. 

...The late July killing of rebel military commander General Abdel Fattah Younis - by the rebels themselves - seems to point to Belhaj or at least people very close to him.

It's essential to know that Younis - before he defected from the regime - had been in charge of Libya's special forces fiercely fighting the LIFG in Cyrenaica from 1990 to 1995.

 Hardly by accident, all the top military rebel commanders are LIFG, from Belhaj in Tripoli to one Ismael as-Salabi in Benghazi and one Abdelhakim al-Assadi in Derna, not to mention a key asset.

...It doesn't require a crystal ball to picture the consequences of LIFG/AQIM - having conquered military power and being among the war "winners" - not remotely interested in relinquishing control just to please NATO's whims.

Back in February, a month before our NATO blunder, this blog urged that America get the Egyptian military to enter Libya and put a quick end to the Gaddafi regime.   The reasoning was that a protracted campaign could allow al-Qaeda to get the toe hold it had failed to achieve during the Egyptian uprising.   By July it was apparent that our worst fears had come true.

Time was very much of the essence in this one.  In neighbouring Egypt, Mubarak had only recently been toppled but the face of the government that would ultimately succeed him was undetermined.  al Qaeda and other Islamist groups lurked in the wings and openly proclaimed they were waiting for the right moment to make their move.    They were looking for a window of chaos.

The Libyan uprising was just what the Islamist planners so badly wanted.  It would be much easier to establish their presence within Libya, on Egypt's border, than within Egypt itself if only the Libyan chaos would drag out.

...Our Western leaders dawdled.  Eventually they fell back on their demonstrated political and military incompetence and decided an air war would do the trick.  And so they have brought to Libya the very same result they achieved so spectacularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Fools - the lot of them.

Now it isn't just Libya that's at risk from Islamist extremists.  It's Egypt itself where the country remains in a state of chaos and unrest.   And what lies immediately beyond Egypt?


doconnor said...

If the Libyan rebels where controlled by al-Qaeda, why didn't they started imposing their religious views on the parts of the country they controlled?

The Mound of Sound said...

That's actually pretty simple. The rebels are a coalition of religious and tribal forces. The al-Qaeda group need to first get rid of Gaddafi and his supporters and then consolidate their own position within Libya. However when they assassinated General Younis they pretty much cemented their control of the rebel side.

When Younis was ambushed I wondered whether the rebel alliance would fracture and begin turning on each other. It seems that the moderates were more interested in getting rid of Gaddafi than in battling it out with the jihadis.

Libya isn't Afghanistan or Pakistan which somewhat curbs al Qaeda's appetites. They've got to be somewhat pragmatic, especially at the outset. Even Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood looks very moderate compared to the Talibs in Afghanistan. It's a long way from Kabul to Paris but it's just a short flight from Tripoli. European influence is felt throughout North Africa and that's a good thing.

I doubt you'll see attacks launched out of Libya but the country may become a support base for extremism elsewhere, particularly in South Asia.