The rebel militias with whom the U.S. cooperated to institute regime change in Libya are holding onto captured anti-aircraft missiles as “leverage” to influence the make-up of the nascent central government.
“Their ultimate leverage is they’re armed,” said Andrew Shapiro, an assistant secretary of State who explained that al-Qaeda terrorists in the country are seeking the weapons. “They’re not going to give that up until they are satisfied that their interests are being taken into account.”
During the NATO-led war to oust former leader Muammar Gadhafi, Libya had become an trouble spot for unsecured weapons, which were stolen and spread throughout the country and the region, often getting into the hands of terrorist groups.
The central government in Libya, if you can call it that, is trying to work out a deal with the fractured, dispersed set of competing and often rival militias thought the country, perhaps to bring them under government control as a national army.
But its unclear what this leverage might mean. The militias have committed systematic and widespread abuses including torture, extra-judicial executions, and other war crimes. Having them influence the government is unlikely to lead to the sprawling democracy heralded by President Obama as a justification for supporting them against Gadhafi’s regime.