High-ranking military personnel from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Libya will meet in Cairo, Egypt on May 18th to coordinate plans to stabilize Libya, which has seen crisis since the toppling of the Gadhafi government in 2011.

Cairo

The meeting is not being publicized, but France and Italy may also play a role.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab leaders have been in talks with Libya National Army Chief Maj. Gen. Khalifa Haftar which have resulted in the Libyan Army buying arms including five M-35 Hind upgraded helicopters that were delivered on April 26th.

Operations are ongoing in Yemen by Arab forces. These operations are seen as going well, and this has emboldened Arab forces to move into Libya.

The Egyptian government is hosting Libyan tribal leaders at the end of May to guarantee safe passage for Arab troops. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced on May 5th that the forum is meant to “unify the Libyan people.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty stressed in a statement, “the extremely important role of Libyan tribes and civil society,” in restoring stability in Libya.

Egypt is preparing to lead this coalition of states, much like Saudi Arabia has led in Yemen, to support the Libyan National Army. The Islamic State is pouring over Libya’s border into Western Egypt, so it has been deemed that action is required.

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Six months ago yesterday, an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya resulted in the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Six months ago today, the U.S. government started oversight analysis on the attack. Officials from the White House, Congress, the Defense Department, the Intelligence Community, and the State Department began trying to piece together the events of the attack. Since that time, countless people have spent hundreds of hours going through thousands of documents. 

Reuters Image

The events of that night are no longer in dispute.

There were a series of security mechanisms at the U.S. Consulate. The first barrier consisted of local police officers sitting in a vehicle outside the Consulate. The two officers had only one gun between them, which is not uncommon in Libya, and the police fled when the initial attack began.

The local Libyan guard force within the Consulate as well as the U.S. Marines stationed there fought courageously to repel the attack to the best of their abilities.

Marines stationed in Portugal were then dispatched to help fight off the attack; however, the air assets that they needed to travel to Benghazi were located in Germany. This delayed the Marine’s arrival.

All of the Americans with the exception of the Ambassador eventually evacuated to the Consulate annex. It is believed that at this point the Ambassador was already dead, and after the evacuation, the looting of the Consulate began. Three more Americans then lost their lives at the annex.

After the attack was over, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was then tasked with evidence collection and intelligence gathering. Because the FBI did not have a presence in Libya prior to the attack, there was a serious time lag between the attack and the FBI arriving to investigate the scene. During this period, looters and reporters accessed the Consulate and tainted evidence. 

This attack was not a strategic intelligence failure. The U.S. government has assessed that the attack on the Consulate was an opportunistic but coordinated attack that was planned only a few hours in advance. The Consulate was a soft target, it was the anniversary of 9/11, and there may have been hope among the militants that regional fury over an internet video purporting to attack Islam could give incentive for other groups to join in once the initial militants instigated the attack.

If there was a failure, one could argue that it existed at the Executive level where there was a lack of a comprehensive national security policy for American interests within Libya. I say this because, after the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Obama administration did nothing to either dismantle the Libyan militias that had popped up in Gaddafi’s absence, or to build a reliable security force that American interests could depend on. I’m not talking about anything as drastic as nation building here. I’m simply pointing out that the Obama administration took a hands off approach to security in Libya.

Those of us who work for principals in government are debating various issues going forward: How can we improve information sharing? How do we improve our national security policy? How can we improve our military posture in responding to such attacks? How can we improve our intelligence investigations?

First, I think it is fair to say that the United States has limits to its military power, because with a smaller budget, military assets that are already stretched thin will be expected to do even more with less. Second, the Obama administration has shifted the Department of Defense’s focus to Asia at the expense of security concerns in the Middle East and Africa. This reallocation of concern could allow militant organizations within those regions to rebuild their terrorist networks. Third, in order to address the gaps in the military’s threat response, the United State’s military is going to have to take a second look at their European presence. Marines stationed in Portugal should be tethered to air assets if they are expected to be first responders to terrorist activity.

The Obama administration’s insistence on using the FBI as the main mechanism for evidence collection and intelligence gathering instead of military assets had its own complications. Because the FBI had no prior presence in Libya, FBI agents had to go through official channels to make arrangements to enter that country. The FBI first had to get permission from the Libyan government, then they had to get visas, and then they had to acquire adequate security to guard them as they did their jobs. All of this took precious time.

Many Members of Congress and some in the press have taken issue with the talking points that were used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. All I will say on this issue is that the talking points were not written for her specifically, but she used them anyway and they turned out to be inaccurate. If this teaches us anything, junior intelligence analysts should not be making talking points for senior level administration officials.

In any event, the U.S. State Department is going to have to have a fundamental rethink on what it means to have a diplomatic presence in another country. There needs to be a balance between keeping State Department employees protected and their desire to take risks and properly explore a country.

The political spectrum of the Middle East and Africa are changing rapidly, and trying to understand these changes is one of the greatest challenges in contemporary foreign policy and security analysis.

Chris Stevens was a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and was the first U.S. envoy to the Libyan resistance, which overthrew Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. He was the ambassador to Libya for less than a year. He was 52 years-old.

Finally, I apologize for my absence over the past month, but between my work on Capitol Hill and my ongoing attempt at writing a book, I’ve had little time to update this blog properly. I promise to be more prolific in the future. 

Dr. Abdul Quadeer Khan is a hero in Pakistan. Abroad, he is often described as a money-obsessed fundamentalist. Western governments, press, and security officials say that his nuclear sales network could be one of the most dangerous organizations of the modern era. A steadfast Pakistani nationalist, Dr. Khan is now entering into politics.

Dr. Khan is entering politics

The struggle to take recognition for Pakistan’s nuclear capacity has lasted almost as long as the program itself.

Institutional divisions and personal vendettas have long pitted the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) against Khan. Indeed, Khan’s claim as Pakistan’s nuclear pioneer is based on the fact that his Kahuta plant produced Pakistan’s first enriched uranium. The PAEC says that building the bomb involved twenty-five separate steps, and that Khan had nothing to do with the weaponizing of the uranium into gas, the production of plutonium, or the the production of a warhead.

No matter Khan’s true role in Pakistan’s nuclear development, he certainly is responsible for nuclear proliferation.

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The film that sparked the anti-American violence last week in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen was breathtakingly offensive to most Muslims.

Protests over the film entitled The Innocence of Muslims are now spreading across the Middle East and North Africa. I want to take a moment to talk about what is happening and why.

The now infamous trailer on YouTube was uploaded back in July, but the protests only started in Egypt this past week. There is some chatter that the man who made the film, believed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, specifically targeted the Egyptian news media. It is believed that he alerted the Egyptian press to the YouTube trailer himself for maximum exposure within Egypt. It is possible that Nakoula timed his interaction with the Egyptian press to coincide with 9-11.

First, it is important to understand that the Qur’an and other Islamic teachings are crystal clear: Mohammad is never to be portrayed in a sketch or a painting, much less played by a bad actor in a cheap B movie. For Muslims, Mohammad is the perfect Muslim. He is the living Qur’an.

But this movie shows Mohammad seducing many women, and one actor states that the Prophet was gay. If you are a Christian, imagine if a movie depicted Jesus Christ engaging in oral sex and then claimed that he was a child molester.

The film portrays Mohammad as a sexual predator, a fraud, and possibly insane. It is in the poorest of taste.

The Innocence of Muslims

Sam Becile – which is the pseudonym Nakoula Basseley Nakoula used – claimed to be an Israeli Jew, and said that the film was financed by other Jews back in Israel. That appears to be completely false, though. Nakoula is being identified as an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian who’s alleged to be extremely anti-Muslim.

It is possible that the film was designed to not only denigrate Islam, but also to stir discord between Muslims and the Coptic Christians within Egypt. There’s been a lot of tension in those relations as of late, so such a film would be intended to further strain Egypt’s social fabric.

A series of anti-Christian attacks has heightened tensions since the ouster of Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. Coptic Christians blame the the Muslim Brotherhood for the increase in violence.

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A Perfect Storm for Turmoil

September 13, 2012

An assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya resulted in the first killing of a U.S. ambassador in more than 30 years. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Ambassador Chris Stevens

There are differing reports on the timeline of what happened and why. What is known is that armed militia joined a protest outside the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Various militia brought automatic weapons, RPGs, and handmade bombs.

Libyan security forces originally blocked the road towards the Consulate in order to protect the Ambassador and his staff, but then security forces withdrew as the attacks intensified.

There has been a security vacuum in Libya since the Arab Spring ended The 42-year rule of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Militias now roam around the country unchecked and unfettered. Hundreds of people may make up a single militia while another militia may have its membership number as few as ten.

The attack in Libya came hours after an Egyptian mob stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down the U.S. flag. 

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Six days into air strikes in Libya, coalition forces have essentially grounded the Libyan air force.

In distance, Libya is the 17th largest country in the world, and it is roughly the size of Alaska. However, the activity in the country is limited to a belt along the Mediterranean coast. This belt is where the population is, where the cities are located, and where there is oil infrastructure.

There have been strong uprisings along this belt both in the east of Libya as well as in the west. In many ways, Gaddafi’s influence has become limited to the capital city of Tripoli.

Tripoli is the largest city in Libya, and the country’s chief seaport.

It is still largely unknown who the rebels are in this uprising. Experts are still unsure how many rebel factions exist, and who makes up the leadership of each group. What is clear is that the opposition is not united, and is therefore not operating as a cogent group.

There are signs that suggest momentum for Gaddafi losing tribal support in Libya. The east side of the population belt is the region that traditionally has had opposition to the current Libyan regime. People here supported the monarchy, and were distressed when Gaddafi rose to power through his coup. Now there are uprisings in the west spurred on by one of Libya’s largest tribes, the Warfalla, that has traditionally supported the authoritarian leader.

Tribal connections in Libya are significant. They are formal networks of allegiances that hold whole communities together. Tribal connections give a sense of solidarity and unity to the Libyan populace, and such connections should not be underestimated as a primary driving force in motivating behavior.

There are more than twenty major tribal groups in Libya, and the bulk of the population is Sunni Muslim.

Known Libyan groups opposing Gaddafi include: The National Transitional Council (comprised of tribal groups including the Zuwayya and the Majabra), The Libyan Peoples Army (composed of Cyrenaica tribes like The National Transitional Council), and The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (notable for being composed of members living outside Libya). Experts are still trying to deduce the various relationships that Libyan tribes may be developing with these and other emerging groups during the uprising.

The 42-year rule of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi continues to be in jeopardy as a coalition of France, U.K., and U.S. allies persist to thwart his army’s attempts to quell opposition rebel uprisings. Due to Libya’s tribal makeup, Gaddafi’s influence fluctuates and is partially regionally dependent.

After several military coup attempts against Gaddafi during his reign, Gaddafi has marginalized the Libyan military. It became routine for Gaddafi to execute all of his officers after an attempt to overthrow him, and replace them with people who had some kind of allegiance to him, most notably through tribal connections. Read the rest of this entry »

Gaddafi Defiant

March 21, 2011

Today marks the third day that a coalition of France, U.K., U.S., and other nations have bombed tanks and anti-aircraft sites in Libya, and inhibited native fighter jets from taking flight. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to continue his attack on the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi while pledging to not resign as the head of Libyan government.

The aim of the United Nations sanctioned mission is to protect civilians.

The “rebel” opposition in Libya is an assemblage of groups that have been pulled together by their common desire to overthrow Gaddafi. Exactly who makes up this amalgamate aggregation is largely unknown to Western forces. It has yet to be revealed if this opposition is benign to longterm U.S. interests. Read the rest of this entry »

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