Thursday, September 15, 2011

Libya the day after

The commander of US African Command, Gen Ham, has three fears as a result of Libya.  First,  Libya has a large stock pile of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.  Second is the large quantities of ammunition.  Third, Libya has many of the components to make chemical weapons (even though Libya does not have chemical weapons).

When the Soviet Union fell, the stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons became available to terrorists and the black market.  Inventory records either were destroyed or never existed so no one really knows what weapons may have found their way out of the former Soviet Union.

Gen Ham's concerns are another example of jumping into a conflict without a clear understanding of the implications.  We do know who will follow Gaddafi as the new leader of Libya.  Whoever that turns out to be will most likely be ousted as they will little traction.  Now analysts are beginning to realize that no Gaddafi means no one is around tending to the store.  The new regime is going to need funds to rebuild after the NATO air campaign.  Selling the missiles and munitions could provide ready cash.

Shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles are low-cost and effective.  You don't need to sneak in operatives and have them take flying lessons.  Now a single operative, who could already be in-country, can now take a shoulder-launched SAM and down an airliner.

The general is concerned the cache of munitions could be turned into improvised explosive devices (IED).  The munitions could be used as is to attack soft targets in the United States or embassies abroad.

Finally the components to make chemical weapons means rogue nations could find a ready supply.  Chemical weapons are very difficult to deploy for small cell terrorist groups.  Unless the weapons are manufactured by a qualified maker, the terrorists are at greater risk of being exposed to the weapon than the intended target.

All three of the general's fears are correct.  Imagine had another course of action been pursued (like leaving things alone), this new threat to our security would be less or even non-existent.

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