JERUSALEM – While echoes of the “Fast and Furious” scandal still resound in the White House, another administration decision at the heart of Obama’s Mideast policy may prove even more explosive.
Almost entirely missing from the debate surrounding the anti-U.S. attacks in Libya is the administration’s policy of arming jihadists to overthrow Mideast governments. But in the case of Libya, the arming of jihadists may have directly resulted in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the subsequent murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, private security employees and former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
After changing its story multiple times, the White House finally conceded the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate was a planned attack linked to al-Qaida, as per information released by national intelligence agencies.
The admission prompted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to call for the resignation of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for pushing the narrative that the attacks were part of a spontaneous uprising.
King may instead want to focus his investigative energies on the larger story: How the Obama administration armed Libyan rebels who were known to include al-Qaida and other anti-Western jihadists, and how the White House is currently continuing that same policy in Syria.
During the revolution against Muammar Gadhafi’s regime, the U.S. admitted to directly arming the rebel groups.
At the time, rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi boasted in an interview that a significant number of the Libyan rebels were al-Qaida gunmen, many of whom had fought U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but he added that the “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
Even Adm. James Stavridis, NATO supreme commander for Europe, admitted during the Libyan revolution that Libya’s rebel force may include al-Qaida: “We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al-Qaida, Hezbollah.”
At the time, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel went even further, telling the Hindustan Times: “There is no question that al-Qaida’s Libyan franchise, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, is a part of the opposition. It has always been Gadhafi’s biggest enemy and its stronghold is Benghazi. What is unclear is how much of the opposition is al-Qaida/Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – 2 percent or 80 percent.”
The arming of the Libyan rebels may have aided in the attacks on our consulate in Libya. One witness to those attacks said some of the gunmen attacking the U.S. installation had identified themselves as members of Ansar al-Shariah, which represents al-Qaida in Yemen and Libya.
The al-Qaida offshoot released a statement denying its members were behind the deadly attack, but a man identified as a leader of the Ansar brigade told Al Jazeera the group indeed took part in the Benghazi attack.
Ambassador Stevens was directly involved in arming the rebels, reported Egyptian security officials speaking to WND. Those officials claimed Stevens played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
The officials further claimed Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, said the security officials.
The Egyptian security officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria, said the officials.
Regardless of Stevens’ alleged role, the Obama administration now continues to support the Syrian rebels, including the Free Syrian Army, despite widespread reports that al-Qaida is prominent among their ranks.
In addition to a reported $450 million in emergency cash for the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian government, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday announced $45 million in additional aid for Syrian the opposition after nearly $100 million was provided to the Syrian rebels this year.
The problem? Last month, WND quoted a senior Syrian source claiming at lease 500 hardcore mujahedeen from Afghanistan, many of whom were spearheading efforts to fight the U.S. there, were killed in clashes with Syrian forces last month.
Also last month, WND reported Jihadiya Salafia in the Gaza Strip, a group that represents al-Qaida in the coastal territory, had declared three days of mourning for its own jihadists who died in Syria in recent weeks.
WND reported in May there was growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida, as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq, according to an Egyptian security official.
The military official said that Egypt has reports of collaboration between the Syrian opposition and three al-Qaida arms, including one the operates in Libya:
Jund al-Sham, which is made up of al-Qaida militants who are Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese;
Jund al-Islam, which in recent years merged with Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group of Sunni Iraqis operating under the al-Qaida banner and operating in Yemen and Libya;
Jund Ansar al-Allah, an al-Qaida group based in Gaza linked to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria.
U.S. officials have stated the White House is providing nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels, while widespread reports have claimed the U.S. has been working with Arab countries to ensure the opposition in Syria is well armed.