Libyan Fighters Battling Alongside Syrian Rebels

The disorganized, mixed nature of the opposition, which includes elements of al-Qaeda, makes US support all the more dangerous

by John Glaser, August 14, 2012

Militiamen from the rebel forces who ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed war last year are fighting alongside the Syrian rebels fighting to oust the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reports.

“Veteran fighters of last year’s civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organize rebels” in “communications, logistics, humanitarian issues and heavy weapons” as well as “battlefield tactics.”

Reuters interviewed Hussam Najjar, who “was part of the rebel unit that stormed Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli a year ago” and is “now lead[ing] a unit in Syria, made up mainly of Syrians but also including some foreign fighters, including 20 senior members of his own Libyan rebel unit.”

Reports of Libyan rebels heading to fight in Syria have been around at least since December of last year. Pepe Escobar wrote at Asia Times that the Libyans had ”already shipped to Syria – via Turkey – 600 highly motivated troops fresh from toppling the Gaddafi regime, to fight alongside the Free Syria Army (FSA).”

Antiwar.com columnist and former CIA officer Philip Giraldi reported the same month that “the [Syrian] rebels are being armed with surplus weapons from Libya that are being shipped on NATO aircraft even though NATO is not officially involved in the activity against Damascus.”

These are illustrations of the increasing internationalization of the Syrian conflict. The opposition fighters include thousands of foreigners coming from several neighboring countries to fight with the FSA. The perpetually fractured nature of the opposition, coupled with the growing list of human rights abuses and the increasingly influence of al-Qaeda, make the support from the US and its allies all the more dangerous.

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