It’s a story almost as old as the war itself. When the NATO-backed NTC was in the process of occupying Tripoli, they left a number of massive weapons warehouses in the Libyan capital entirely unguarded, and the arsenal was quickly carried out the front door by looters.
Many types of weapons went missing. The Tuareg mercenaries showed up in northern Mali sporting shiny new assault rifles for their insurgency. For the US, however, the focus has been on the SA-24 shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.
The SA-24s are portable and designed to target aircraft. This has made them a much desired commodity for the various militant groups in the region. Experts say that Libya had enough of these weapons to turn the northern half of Africa into one big no-fly zone.
The US scrambled, getting officials on the ground to try to find the weapons. But the short answer is they never did find them, and claims that it was “mostly secured” appear not to have been true.
And while the US will probably keep looking just for lack of anything better to do, State Department officials are now conceding that they “probably never will” know how many missiles went missing or where they ended up. At least until those weapons start being used against aircraft in the area.