(by Eli Lake, WashingtonTimes.com) – U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic agencies are quietly making plans to secure elements of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s expansive arsenal of weapons as his regime nears collapse and is under fire from rebels seeking to expand control over the Libyan capital.
The government is concerned that conventional weapons, such as SA-7 shoulder-fired missiles, which can be used to shoot down aircraft, could get into the wrong hands.
The government also is monitoring Col. Gadhafi’s stocks of chemical weapons, estimated to include between 10 tons and 14 tons of mustard gas and also uranium ore, U.S. government spokesmen said Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that the Soviet-made 1970s-era surface-to-air missile launcher known as the SA-7 would “remain a concern because of [its] portability.” … [Frederic Wehrey, a U.S. Air Force reserve officer and former attache at the U.S. embassy in Libya said they are potentially an “ideal terrorist weapon,” and that they require minimal training to use. Civilian airliners would be particularly vulnerable, Wehrey added.]
The State Department this year hired the MAGAmerica, or the Mines Advisory Group, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that specializes in the disposal of ordnance, to monitor and dispose of some conventional arms stockpiles in Libya. A team from the group arrived in the country in April and began training fighters provided by rebel groups for on-the-ground assessments.
Jennifer Lachman, executive director of MAGAmerica, said … her group disposed mainly of airdropped bombs that had not exploded. When the inspection teams came upon abandoned ammunition points, however, the teams had to negotiate with the [Libyan opposition confederation, known as the] Transitional National Council over what weapons would be destroyed, Ms. Lachman said. …
The U.S. government estimates that Col. Gadhafi imported 20,000 shoulder-fired SA-7 rockets during his reign. The weapon is especially attractive to terrorists seeking a projectile capable of downing an airplane.
Ms. Lachman said her teams have not found many SA-7 rockets. “It’s a security concern, given the threat,” she said. “We haven’t seen close to 20,000 of them on the ground.”
“We’ve seen since February the looting of arms depots and specifically those missiles [by rebels],” said Matthew Schroeder, director of the arms-sales monitoring project at the Federation of American Scientists. “Missiles similar to these have been used in the past to shoot down civilian aircraft.” …
Libya’s chemical weapons also have been a worry for the U.S. government.
Jamie F. Mannina, a spokesman for the State Department’s arms-control division, said Libya’s known chemical-weapons storage facilities have been monitored since the start of the rebellion in March.
“We have been monitoring known missile and chemical-agent storage facilities since the start of this conflict and will continue to do so,” he said. “We also continue to monitor storage sites of the Libyan stockpile of uranium yellowcake. I am not going to go beyond how we do these things other than to say we are using national technical means.”
“National technical means” refers to the overhead satellite and aircraft surveillance the U.S. government has used for decades to monitor known missile and nuclear facilities all over the world.
Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said “known missile and chemical agent storage facilities remain secure, and we’ve not seen any activity, based on our national technical means, to give us concern that they have been compromised.”
Regarding nuclear-related goods, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] estimates that Libya holds 2,000 tons of yellowcake uranium stored mainly at a facility in the southern town of Sebha.
“At this point, it’s a big amount. If you want to just remove [it], it’s a major effort. It’s packed in drums and would require a major operation,” said Olli Heinonen, deputy director general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency from 2005 to 2010. …
Mr. Heinonen said the material would be of interest mainly as a precursor to making nuclear fuel, but in and of itself it would not be useful as a weapon. “If you put it in a public place, it’s a problem,” he said. “But it’s less of a problem compared to other radioactive material.”
One U.S. official said the State Department has sent technical specialists to meet with the Transitional National Council and to help alert Libya’s neighbors about the possible transshipment of weapons across the country’s borders.
Another U.S. intelligence officer, who asked not to be named, said the United States also was relying on contractors to monitor known weapons sites.
“We don’t have much in the way of ground forces,” this official said. “Someone was supposed to be doing this. The Qataris and Emiratis were supposed to do it; they had their special forces on the ground, and there are contractors too. They were supposed to do site security and make sure nothing has been touched.”
The U.S. Special Operations Command has special units of commandos that are prepared to go to foreign countries, including North Korea, to destroy or secure foreign weapons sites. It could not be learned whether commando units are set for operations in Libya.
Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC. Reprinted from the Washington Times for educational purposes only. Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.
1. List the types of weapons Moammar Gadhafi had stockpiled in Libya. – For what purpose can each be used?
2. Describe the number/amount of each type of weapon Gadhafi has that is known to the U.S. government.
3. Which type of weapon stockpiled by Gadhafi is the main concern to the U.S.? Why?
4. What step has the State Department taken to secure Gadhafi’s conventional weapons stockpile?
5. Why is Libya’s chemical weapons arsenal of less of a concern to the U.S.?
6. Why is it so important that we control what happens to Gadhafi’s weapons arsenal?
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For a map of Libya, go to worldatlas.com.
Watch the first 4:00 minutes of the news video below. Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers from Michigan, discusses Libya’s weapons arsenal.
NOTE: The U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is a committee of the House of Representatives, currently chaired by Republican Mike Rogers. It is the primary committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged with the oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community, though it does share some jurisdiction with other committees in the House, including the Armed Services Committee for some matters dealing with the Department of Defense and the various branches of the U.S. military.
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