Qaddafi’s Spawn: The Libyan Leader’s Ouster Dispersed Masses of Guns and Refugees Across the Region
The military campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime has been hailed a success. In March, Permanent U.S. Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis wrote in Foreign Affairs that, faced with the humanitarian disaster in Libya, NATO “succeeded in protecting those civilians and, ultimately, in providing the time and space necessary for local forces to overthrow Muammar al-Qaddafi.” But all the celebration has covered up a worrying trend. The unrest surrounding Qaddafi’s last months is now reverberating throughout North Africa and the Sahel — a phenomenon that might be called Qaddafi’s spawn.
First, there are the weapons: The neighborhood, especially Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger, was always uneasy about Libya’s civil war. Many feared that it would pry the lid off Tripoli’s sizeable weapons cache and lead to the dispersal of arms across the region. It turns out that they were right to be worried. Then, there is the money: Locating Libya’s financial assets after the war has been another complicated matter. Members of Qaddafi’s inner circle who know where the money is stashed are missing or unidentifiable. Basically, billions of dollars might wind up in the hands of individuals who could use the cash to sponsor terrorism or otherwise destabilize Libya. And finally, there are the refugees: Tens of thousands of Africans, no longer welcome in Libya, returned home this year. Besides the fact that many of them are ripe for jihadi infiltration, they will further strain the region’s weak economies. Already, food security is becoming a major issue and famine looms.
The weapons bonanza, disappearing money, and wave of refugees have played out differently across the country. In Libya, militias, which amassed vast quantities of weapons during the war, are refusing to relinquish them to the interim government. Some groups, including the one that conquered Tripoli, are comprised of jihadists. Meanwhile, other groups — tribes and private citizens — are building their own arsenals against a background of resurgent tribalism and regionalism…