The Emerging Libya Story. Did You Know?

Joan Neuhaus Schaan is a Fellow in Homeland Security and Terrorism at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
Preface & PostScript from Joan Neuhaus Schaan– Fellow in Homeland Security and Terrorism at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University – During the course of my research, I review information from a wide variety of sources. While many sources attach a significant amount of ‘spin’ to the facts, I do not endorse ‘spin,’ but I am interested in the facts. My goal is to present a set of facts, so that the reader can relate the facts to their own experience and come to their own understanding of what is a contentious issue. Each of us comes to a set of facts with different experiences, and in sharing these experiences we shall all be the wiser.

If you would like more information on a topic, please contact me.
Email: neuhausj at rice.edu


On September 11, 2012 members of Ansar al Shariah attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and a second facility, killing 4 Americans. The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2012 will haunt many Americans in general, and intelligence and security professionals in particular. This is not the end of the story, however. The story still is being written, even as the circumstances are just starting to be brought into view.
Specific facts are offered below, and they seem to be filling in a picture that will surprise many Americans. Here is the story that appears to be emerging. The United States supported the rebels in the overthrow of Qadhafi, even though the government was aware a significant portion of the rebels were comprised of members of Al Qaeda and/or its affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood. The rebels were provided funding, weapons and special forces personnel. The aid was provided by means of a secret order from the President, and was not approved by Congress as required in the War Powers Act. Qatar has played a central role. Ultimately the military leader chosen by the post-Qadhafi government was the Emir of the Libyan Al Qaeda affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG.) Al Qaeda affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood have formed a coalition in the new government. The Benghazi consulate was protected by a brigade with Muslim Brotherhood ties. The attackers were from a group affiliated with Al Qaeda, and Ambassador Stevens had personally met its leader after he was released from Guantanamo Bay. In sum, the fox may have been protecting the hen house, the Americans may well have been killed with weapons acquired from aid we provided to the rebels, and the United States may have played a pivotal role in assisting the militant Islamists with taking control of a country rich in resources and in close proximity of Europe.
A similar scenario is now being played out in Syria. Perhaps the scenario also is scheduled for Morocco. This seems to be a work in progress.
Returning to the tragedy of Benghazi…..

Did you know that the February 17th Brigade that provided the security for the Benghazi Consulate had ties to the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood?
You can see in a letter provided during the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing last week[1], that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, if elected, would choose the Feb. 17th Brigade leader as his minister of Defense.

Separate reporting in May 2012 talks of Ismail al Sallabi as the head of the 17th Brigade and close to the Muslim Brotherhood.[2]

Did you know the area of Benghazi and nearby Derna were known to be strongholds for Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood? Did you know Ambassador Stevens travelled there prior to the rebellion?
The Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, who defected in the spring of 2011 confirmed that rebels had established virtually an Islamist state in Derna[3], the home of Ansar al Shairah leader Abu Sufian[2]. French Al Arabiya reported Al Qaeda had established an emirate in Derna. French Ambassador to Jordan commented “The east of the country has always been under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.”[4] Press reports chronicled that rebels in Derna and Benghazi that had fought against coalition forces in Iraq, and Derna sent more fighters per capita to Iraq that any other location[5]At least 20 Islamic militants that had fought American troops held battle command for the rebels.[6]
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Al Qaeda had a rebel training camp in Benghazi , and Qatar sent 20 experts to assist[7]. When the rebels took control of Benghazi, they flew the Al Qaeda flag over the courthouse.[8] (See video of Rep. Kucinich on the topic.)[9] They also have imposed Shariah Law and not democracy.
Ambassador Stevens was familiar with Derna (aka Darnah), and a memo that chronicled his two 2008 trips were captured in a Wikileaks cable. The second report is here. (Caution: To my knowledge, this document has not been declassified by the U.S. Government. As a consequence, those holding a federal clearance may have restrictions on viewing the document, even though it is posted on the internet for all to view.)

Did you know that from the outset, the rebels Islamist tendencies for a future Libya were made known, including to Ambassador Cretz?
The rebel council while based in Derna drafted a constitution based on Shariah as the source of legislation. The council was led by Mustafa Abduljalil (aka Mustafa Abdul Jalil.) Abdel Hakim al Hasadi, an Abu Sufian and Abdel Hakim Belhaj associate, was the security chief. According to reporting based on Wikileaks cables, when Ambassador Cretz attempted to discuss the Criminal Code, Abdul Jalil changed the subject. Under Qadhafi, then-Justice Minister Abdul Jalil twice upheld death sentences for Bulgairan nurses who were tortured and convicted for infecting Libyan children with HIV[10].
This would imply that the U.S. government not only was aware of terrorists in the ranks of the rebels, but of their intention to impose Shariah law, nonetheless Assistant Secretary of State promised the post-Qadhafi Libya as “moderate,”, “modern”, and “secular.”[11] This was echoed by Heide Fulton State Department spokesman[12]. Nonetheless, as towns were captured, the Islamic flag of jihad was raised.
These are the same statements made about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Muslim theocracies would likely be hostile to the West and Israel, and leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood has issued increasingly bellicose statements since coming to power.

Did you know Abdul Hakim al Belhaj, a close associate of Ansar al Shariah’s emir Abu Sufian’s, was a significant leader for the rebels, the Emir of Al Qaeda’s LIFG, and a well known Al Qaeda leader?
Abdul Hakim Belhaj (aka Abu Abdallah Sadek, aka Abu Abdallah al Sadiq) was a well-known Al Qaeda leader from the Benghazi area and the Emir of the LIFG, and he led rebels in the attack on Libyan forces in Misrata and Tripoli. He was known not only locally, but to intelligence services around the world. During the uprising against Qadhafi, NATO coalition forces allowed the Al Qaeda members to travel to Misrata for the attack on board a ship filled with weapons and sophisticated communications equipment. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Al Qaeda had a rebel training camp in Benghazi, and Qatar sent 20 experts to assist[13].
Belhaj had been known for a long time as a member of the LIFG and Al Qaeda[14]. He trained in Afghanistan and joined Al Qaeda. He worked with Zarqawi, was captured in Malaysia and sent by rendition to Bangkok. Belhaj was returned to Libya, and he negotiated his own release with Saif al Qadhafi.
Generally speaking, all the top battlefield commanders were members of the Al Qaeda affiliate LIFG.[15]

Did you know Abdel Hakim al Belhaj, the Emir of the Al Qaeda-affiliate LIFG, led the transitional government’s military council?
After leading rebel forces from Derna and capturing Tripoli, he was appointed by the National Transitional Council to lead the Tripoli Military Council[16]. Belhaj also was running for the Libyan Congress in July 2012[17]. (By some accounts he is the same person as Abdel Hakim al Hasadi, but if not the two are very close associates with a similar history.)
There was an understanding of the role of militants in the Libyan government, and as Ambassador Chris Stevens said, “The Libyans are well aware of the problem, and they are devising Libyan ways to deal with it.”[18]

Did you know that last year, National Transitional Council members that were not in Libya were based in Doha, Qatar[19]?
Members of the Executive Committee and other senior officials operated out of Benghazi, Tripoli and Doha, Qatar. Qatar’s television station, Al Jazeera, was a player in media efforts associated with the rebels. The media portrayed a situation on the ground that many sources say was inaccurate, and it formed the basis for votes in the United Nations[20].

Did you know we commenced military operations in Libya without the approval of Congress?
The effort was approved by the Arab League and the United Nations under the auspices of human rights, but not the American Congress, thus entry into the conflict did not follow the War Powers Act[21].

Did you know the current administration signed a secret order for the CIA to help the Libyan rebels, even though the military leader had a long association with Al Qaeda?
The president signed a secret order directing the CIA to provide the Libyan rebels with assistance.[22][23]

Did you know the current administration signed a secret order for aid to Syria as well?
President Obama signed another secret authorization for the support of Syrian rebels as well.[24] The aid was negotiated in Istanbul with Turkish officials, Libyans and Syrian rebels in late 2011 and involved weapons, funds and Libyan fighters. This flow likely included a Libyan ship recently docked in Turkey carrying humanitarian aid and, many believe, weapons.

Did you know that the United States aid may have included weapons and special forces?
Blogs report that the U.S. participation in the air war and deployment of special forces has cost U.S. taxpayers $1 billion, and the rebel forces include jihadists that fought U.S. and NATO allies in Iraq and Afghanistan.[25] Other reports indicate forces have been sent in under the guise of contractors. As of March 2011, these contractors had arrived in Libya to make contact with the rebels.[26]

Did you know we provided weapons and other assistance to these Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda groups through Qatar and Saudi Arabia? Did you know we are providing weapons to Syrian rebels with the help of the same groups, and the same Al Qaeda/LIFG individuals may be participating?
The American government provided support to Libyan rebels through Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The government is doing the same now in Syria. Intelligence reports indicate the ‘lion’s share’ of the shipments organized from Qatar are largely going to hard-line Islamists.[27]“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official.” Ambassador Stevens likely was aware of the circumstances in Libya and Syria.[28]

Did you know Belhaj travelled to Syria to assist the rebels?
There are reports of his trip to Turkey, which was believed to include efforts to connect with Syrian rebels. There are other reports detailing the LIFG fighters in Syria as well.

Did you know that 18 months ago our allies expressed concern about the composition of the rebels and there possible aspirations after the removal of Qadhafi?
Concern was expressed from many quarters, due to the composition of the Libyan rebels[29]. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe then broke with NATO on providing weapons to the rebels, for fear the weapons might be turned against NATO forces. “There are supply networks for armaments coming from Egypt, via the Muslim Brotherhood, with support from Hezbollah people, and now the Hamas people, who are coming to buy arms in this area,” according to Pascal Le Pautremat, a specialist in defence issues and the Arab world in April 2011[30]. A Libyan spokesman warned “We believe that it would be very dangerous if these people establish themselves in the country and control its future and its immense wealth, a few steps from Europe.”[31] Libya has extensive oil wealth and does not have the poverty-stricken masses common in countries.

Did you know that coordination has also occurred with rebel movements in Morocco and Tunisia?
British and French special operators also have been coordinating with rebel forces in Libya, and Moroccan, and Tunisian.[32] This begs the question of the role the United States may have played in the ‘Arab Spring’ initiation, and the rise of the Islamist party in Tunisia, and particularly given the central role played by a senior Google executive.

Did you know the Al Qaeda rebels likely have the surface-to-air missiles (manpads)?
Barracks of the Qadhafi regime were pillaged,[33] and surface3-to-air missiles (i.e. the type that can take down civilian and military aircraft were pillaged. In the hearings of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform on October 11, 2012, testimony estimated 10,000 to 20,000 were missing.

Did you know Al Qaeda formed a coalition with the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood to participate in and influence the fledgling Libyan government?

Once Qadhafi had been toppled and the National Transitional Council, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Al Qaeda/Islamist parties appear to have formed a coalition to participate in the new government.[34]

Did you know Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaida, issued a video in early 2011 calling on Libyans to rise up against the Libyan government and NATO?
In a video recorded prior to NATO intervention, Zawahiri called upon Libyans to rise up against the Libyan regime and NATO. Al Qaeda was well familiar with the Libyan rebels, because, other than the Saudis, Libyans made up the largest number of jihadists in Iraq and have held many of the key leadership positions in Al Qaeda . He likewise issued a video within 48 hours of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack to avenge the death of his No. 2, Abu Yahya al Libi.

Did you know the leader of the group, Ansar al Shariah, that attacked the Benghazi consulate was a Guantanamo Bay detainee?
The leader of Ansar al Shairah has been identified as Abu Sufian[35], Guantanmo Bay detainee ISN 557.[36]
If you view Abu Sufian’s Guantanamo Bay report released by Wikileaks via the Telepgraph, many details of his background are documented. (Caution: To my knowledge, this document has not been declassified by the U.S. Government. As a consequence, those holding a federal clearance may have restrictions on viewing the document, even though it is posted on the internet for all to view.)
Abu Sufian was a long time member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) (the local Al Qaeda affiliate), Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He was trained in a Bin Laden camp, he knew Abu Zubaydah, he moved to Sudan approximately the same time as Bin Laden, and he and worked for a Bin Laden company.

Did you know that Ambassador Stevens knew Abu Sufian, the leader of the group that killed him?
Ambassador Stevens appears to have met with Abu Sufian when he was held in a Libyan prison to check on his well being. Ambassador Cretz also may have known him personally, in that Ambassador Cretz also sent a cable about Abu Sufian. (Caution: To my knowledge, this document has not been declassified by the U.S. Government. As a consequence, those holding a federal clearance may have restrictions on viewing the document, even though it is posted on the internet for all to view.)

Given these facts, what do you surmise has happened, is happening and will be happening?
Was the uprising in Libya an Al Qaeda insurrection aided and abetted by the U.S. government? Did our government knowingly support Al Qaeda? Are we still supporting these same terrorist elements in the overthrow of other governments?
Many might agree with Essam Abdallah statement “The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Nahda of Tunisia, the Justice Party of Morocco and the Islamist militias in Libya’s Transitional National Council have been systematically supported by Washington at the expense of real liberal and secular forces.”[37]


Footnotes

1 http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/9-11-12-Memo.pdf
2 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
3 “Gaddafi ordered Lockerbie bombing: Ex-minister” AlArabiya Feb. 22, 2011
4 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
5 Youssef, Nancy A. “Libyan city struggles with history of fighting America” McClatchy Newspapers May 1, 2011. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/05/01/113440/libyan-city-struggles-with-history.html
6 Parker, Ned. “Libyan rebel’s story shows links to Taliban, Al Qaeda, NATO” Los Angeles Times April 17, 2011 http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/17/world/la-fg-libya-qaeda-20110417
7 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
8 “The Terrorists You Used to Topple Regimes in Egypt and Libya are Now Attacking Our Embassies” The American Dream Septembe12, 2012.
9 http://article.wn.com/view/2012/04/17/Al_Qaedas_flags_flying_high_atop_the_central_courthouse_in_B/
10 West, Diana. “The Truth About The Libyan Rebels” The Brussels Journal August 26, 2011 http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/4816
11 West, Diana. “The Truth About The Libyan Rebels” The Brussels Journal August 26, 2011 http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/4816
12 Dorell, Oren. “Islamists’ evolving role in Libya” USA Today August 31, 2011.
13 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Risk Exist in Libya?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
14 Escobar, Pepe. “How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli” Asia Times August 30, 2011
15 Escobar, Pepe. “How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli” Asia Times August 30, 2011
16 “Battle for Libya not quite over” CNN Wire September 1, 2011 Note: Abdel Hakim al Hasadi has been identified as the same person as Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

17 Bahrampour, Tara. “Islamists put to test in post-Gaddafi elections” Washington Post July 4, 2012
18 Bahrampour, Tara. “Islamists put to test in post-Gaddafi elections” Washington Post July 4, 2012
19 “Battle for Libya not quite over” CNN Wire September 1, 2011 Note: Abdel Hakim al Hasadi has been identified as the same person as Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

20 “Osama, Obama in Operation Odyssey´ The Herald (Harare) via Africa News March 31, 2011.
21 Hearing Of The U. S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. Subject: Libya: Defining U.S. National Security Interests; Chaired By: Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Thursday March 31, 2011.
22 Evans, Michael; Catherine Philp, Tom Coglan. “Arms for the rebels could end up in al-Qaeda hands; Libya; Obama signs secret order allowing CIA to send in private cpontractors to Libya.” The Times (London) March 31, 2011.
23 Evans, Michael; Catherine Philp, Tom Coglan. “Arms for the rebels could end up in al-Qaeda hands; Libya; Obama signs secret order allowing CIA to send in private cpontractors to Libya.” The Times (London) March 31, 2011.
24 Hosenball, Mark. “Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels” Reuters August 1, 2012.
25 West, Diana. “The Truth About The Libyan Rebels” The Brussels Journal August 26, 2011 http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/4816
26 Evans, Michael. “Rebels may be bolstered by privte armies, report says” The Times March 31, 2011 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/rebels-may-be-bolstered-by-private-armies-report-says/story-e6frg6so-1226031194555
27 Sanger, David. “Rebel Arms Flow is Said to Benegfit Jihadists in Syria” New York Times October 14, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html
28 Kelley, Michael. “How US Ambassador Chris Stevens May Have Been Linked To Jihadist Rebels In Syria” Business Insider October 19, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/us-syria-heavy-weapons-jihadists-2012-10#ixzz29zE2lfmX

29 Evans, Michael; Catherine Philp, Tom Coglan. “Arms for the rebels could end up in al-Qaeda hands; Libya; Obama signs secret order allowing CIA to send in private cpontractors to Libya.” The Times (London) March 31, 2011.
30 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
31 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
32 Dorell, Oren. “Islamists’ evolving role in Libya” USA Today August 31, 2011.
33 “Does the Al-Qa’idah Rsik Exist in Liby?” L’Express with AFP April 18, 2011
34 Chernitsky, B. “Libya on Eve of General National Congress Elections – A Political Review” Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) July 5, 2012. http://www.memri.org/report/en/print6494.htm
35 “Al Qaeda, ex-GITMO detainee involved in consulate attack, intelligence sources say” Fox News September 20, 2012 http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/19/top-administration-official-says-strike-in-libya-was-terror-attack/
36 Guantanamo Bay Wikileak files dated 22APR2005 via the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/guantanamo-bay-wikileaks-files/8477136/Guantanamo-Bay-detainee-file-on-Abu-Sufian-Ibrahim-Ahmed-Hamuda-Bin-Qumu-US9LY-000557DP.html
37 Abdallah, Essam. “Islamist Lobbies’ Washington War on Arab and Muslim Liberals” The Cutting Edge News February 16, 2012 and “Osama, Obama in Operation Odessey´ The Herald (Harare) via Africa News March 31, 2011.

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