France's Sarkozy may find it perfectly swell that an "al Qaeda asset," Adbelhakim Belhadj, is commander of rebel forces in Tripoli, a story gradually seeping into MSM consciousness. According to the Asia Times' Pepe Escobar, however, Belhadj, founder and "emir" of the previously (presently?) al-Qaeda-allied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), is not alone. He is one of many such jihad commanders. Escobar writes:
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, Ali Salabi, sitting at the core of the TNC. It was Salabi who negotiated with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi the "end" of LIFG's jihad, thus assuring the bright future of these born-again "freedom fighters".
The quotation marks around "end" denote the LIFG leaders' phony renuciation of jihad against the Qaddafi regime and violence in general that led to their 2010 release.
Question of the day: Are these same Islamic jihadists who command rebel forces in Libya the very "terrorists" the US is now scrambling to deprive of some 20,000 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles from the Qaddafi arsenal?
The U.S. plans to deploy two contractors to Libya with the exclusive job of tracking down and destroying shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles before they fall into the hands of terrorists.
With so much of Libya in control of US-NATO-supported LIFG-led "rebel" forces, the fact that these forces are apparently not trusted to secure these weapons suggests that the answer is way too much of a "yes" for comfort.
The State Department also will deploy an in-house specialist in controlling and destroying the portable missiles to oversee the team, which is expected to arrive in early September, according to an official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the subject.
State Department officials notified Congress of these plans Aug. 15, the day before rebels stormed the Libyan capitol of Tripoli, a decisive break in the sixth-month-old civil war.
There is evidence that a small number of Soviet-made SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles from Qaddafi’s arsenal have reached the black market in Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active, according to two U.S. government officials not authorized to speak on the record.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb? As Escobar writes:
In 2007, then al-Qaeda's number two, Zawahiri, officially announced the merger between the LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). So, for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same - and Belhaj was/is its emir.
Gee, ya think LIFG might have shipped any of those weapons to their AQIM brothers...? Congratualtions, America: Ten years after 9/11, Uncle Sucker has apparently become Al Qaeda's stalwart ally in North Africa.
Meanwhile, there's not even cold comfort to take from evidence that only a "small number" of the missiles have shown up for sale, and merely in Mali. This week, Haaretz reported:
Palestinians in Gaza have acquired anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets from Libya during its six-month civil war, enlarging but not significantly improving their arsenal, Israeli officials said on Monday....
Sounds as if the US weapon-hunters are too late.