Some of you missed this article that I wrote a year ago about the fate of MANPADS left over from the Qaddafi regime in Libya. According to a well-placed source, hundreds of the missiles had already been tracked as having gone to Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and thousands are unaccounted for.
Before his overthrow and death in the fall of 2011, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was believed to have purchased 15,000-20,000 Soviet MANPADS. Concern over the whereabouts of the missiles – and the possibility that terrorists could buy them on the black market and even use them to shoot down American passenger jets – drove a U.S. effort to recover as many as possible. But only about 2,000 were accounted for prior to the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on Benghazi, Libya, according to the source. He describes those working to locate the missiles as “beside themselves” and “frustrated.”
The program to recover MANPADS in Libya was funded by the U.S. and said to have been run by South African contractors. The contractors attempted to appeal to Libyans, many of them ex-Qaddafi loyalists, to turn over or destroy the MANPADS as a matter of patriotism and pride.
“We told them that ‘if planes start dropping out of the sky, it will trace back to you and you’ll have the international reputation for terrorism,'” says the source. “We offered them money, we tried talking them out of it … The only successes they had were in western Libya, the Tripoli area. In the eastern half toward Benghazi, they were getting nowhere.”
“This is one of those scenarios that we have dreaded,” says Zarate, a former Bush National Security Advisor. “You have stockpiles and availability of these weapons in an environment where a terrorist can readily get access to them… It’s a serious concern.”