Pre-9/11/12 Benghazi Attack Pentagon Report: Al Qaeda Jihadists Significant Threat to Libya

Andrew Bostom:

The nonpareil national security investigative reporter Bill Gertz brings to our attention an internal 54 pp. Pentagon report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon., “AL-QAEDA IN LIBYA: A PROFILE—A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress under an Interagency Agreement with the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Irregular Warfare Support Program, August, 2012.”

Prepared and issued before the murderous 9/11/12 attacks, which left 4 dead—the US ambassador Chris Stevens, two former US Navy Seals (Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods), and a US Air Force veteran (Sean Smith)—the report emphasized how Al Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), working via a large, powerful, and well-established jihadist infrastructure in Libya, sought to capitalize on the US and NATO-supported insurrection which toppled the Libyan despot Qaddafi, and fulfill its goal of making Libya part of an eventual transnational caliphate.

The report highlighted an ominous July, 2012 public jihadist rally, while emphasizing, with resigned sobriety, how such jiadist/Al-Qaeda discourse resonates with a significant swath of the Libyan population

In June 2012, Ansar al-Sharia staged a large-scale rally and military show of force involving dozens of military vehicles, with Islamists wearing the Afghan mujahidin’s traditional outfit. Some leaders described themselves as Islamists and called for implementation of sharia similar to that which the Taliban had implemented in Afghanistan or al-Qaeda in Somalia and Yemen. The military show of force consisted of a parade in which some 30 battalions from Benghazi, Darnah, Misrata, Al-Nufilyah, Ajdabiyah, and other Libyan towns took part in the first meeting in support of sharia in Benghazi. Islamist leaders pointed out that the aim of the military parade was to terrorize (Arabic: irhab) those who do not want to be judged by God’s law. Islamist leaders urged the Transitional National Council to clarify the identity of the state as Islamic or secular. Such a system of local affiliates might use neighborhood mosques as a support infrastructure for a religious and popular movement that could frighten politicians attempting to run on a moderate Islamic platform. …A weak Islamist-dominated central government is unlikelyto confront such a radical movement, at least in the short term. The minister of religious affairs expressed his government’s weakness when he lamented the “hijacking” of mosques by extremist imams imposed by militiamen. Two of these local Islamist-oriented militias—Ansar al-Sharia and al-A’hrar Libya—are the tip of the iceberg. They broadcast typical al-Qaeda–type propaganda on the Internet, and they have adopted the black flag, which symbolizes commitment to violent jihad promoted by AQSL.

AQSL’s discourse may attract a sizable audience, especially among disenchanted former rebels, insecure tribal leaders, and Salafist clerics that could be turned into a support network and recruiting tool for jihadists. As demonstrated by ongoing rallies of supporters of the implementation of sharia, the Salafist movement is gaining ground in Libya and is most likely to adopt an uncompromising stance with regard to sharia and secularism close to the one typically promoted by al-Qaeda.

The  report’s EXECUTIVE SUMMARY features these 10 points of emphasis, which raise serious questions about both the callous inattention to security for US diplomatic and ancillary personnel in Benghazi, as well as the abysmal failure of imagination regarding overall US policy in Libya, which has abetted the most fanatical jihadist movement extant—Al Qaeda itself.

1. Al-Qaeda has tried to exploit the “Arab Awakening” in North Africa for its own purposes during the past year. Al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL), based in Pakistan, is likely seeking to build a clandestine network in Libya as it pursues its strategy of reinforcing its presence in North Africa and the Middle East, taking advantage of the “Arab Awakening” that has disrupted existing counterterrorism capabilities. Although AQSL’s previous attempt to co-opt the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was inconclusive, the Libyan Revolution may have created an environment conducive to jihad and empowered the large and active community of Libyan jihadists, which is known to be well connected to international jihad.

2. AQSL’s strategic goals remain restoration of the caliphate, instituting sharia, and ending the Western presence in Muslim lands. Al-Qaeda’s primary goal in Libya is to establish an Islamic emirate as part of its overall objective to reestablish the caliphate.

3. AQSL in Pakistan issued strategic guidance to followers in Libya and elsewhere to take advantage of the Libyan rebellion. AQSL’s strategic guidance was to:

- gather weapons,

- establish training camps,

- build a network in secret,

- establish an Islamic state, and

- institute sharia.

4. AQSL in Pakistan dispatched trusted senior operatives as emissaries and leaders who could supervise building a network. Al-Qaeda has established a core network in Libya, but it remains clandestine and refrains from using the al-Qaeda name.

5. Ansar al-Sharia, led by Sufian Ben Qhumu, a former Guantanamo detainee, has increasingly embodied al-Qaeda’s presence in Libya, as indicated by its active social-media propaganda, extremist discourse, and hatred of the West, especially the United States.

6.  Al-Qaeda adherents in Libya used the 2011 Revolution to establish well-armed, well-trained, and combat-experienced militias. Militia groups, led by Wisam Ben Hamid and Hayaka Alla, have adopted similar behavior, with, however, fewer advertised grudges against the West. The only open-source material that has linked these groups, aside from their jihadist credentials and their defense of sharia, is their attachment to the flag that has come to symbolize al-Qaeda.

7. The al-Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube. However, it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.

8. Al-Qaeda affiliates such as AQIM are also benefiting from the situation in Libya. AQIM will likely join hands with the al-Qaeda clandestine network in Libya to secure a supply of arms for its areas of operations in northern Mali and Algeria.

9. The July 2012 elections failed to generate a strong and unified national leadership that could address the chronic insecurity posed by the multiplicity of local militias, which al-Qaeda’s clandestine network has probably infiltrated.

10. Al-Qaeda’s clandestine network is highly likely to recruit and train local and foreign jihadists to be sent to Syria

Libyan Jihadists Per Capita and by Hometowns as of 2005 During the Iraq War: