Last week, President Obama decided to continue Executive Order 13566, which was signed back in 2011 and established a national emergency in response to the conflict in Libya, eventually leading to the toppling of the Moammar Gadhafi regime. The president is extending this order for an additional year due to continued national security concerns and the prolonged threats in the region.
According to every government official involved with national security who has testified on Capitol Hill recently, al-Qaeda still poses a tremendous threat to the homeland. Admiral William McRaven, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, stated yesterday on Capitol Hill that, "the group's [al-Qaeda] core 'has gotten markedly weaker' while affiliate groups are surging in Yemen, North Africa, Iraq and Syria." Syria's civil war poses the largest potential danger to national security because it has become a centralized location for training as well as a hub for jihadist autonomy.
Libya's predicament is remarkably similar to the problem in Syria. After the fall of Gadhafi, the Transitional National Council (TNC) has been marginally unsuccessful in bringing forth order to the nation. Much like Syria, Libya has become a security vacuum and enabled terrorist cells to gain strength and resurgence. In a report produced by the Library of Congress in 2012, the authors assert that senior al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan have established a clandestine terrorist network in Libya to recruit and train members. According to the report, al-Qaeda's, "propaganda is typically filled with praise for mujahidin who take up arms
for the sake of God, and its message has been broadcast to all Libyan rebels
without distinction so as to nurture a self-fulfilling prophecy...Such a communication strategy may have been effective in instilling a
sense of self-empowerment among former rebels that may help to explain the hard
stance taken by local militias in their interaction with the transitional
The TNC has been ineffective in establishing order thus far and has even been targeted by radical militants in deadly attacks. Additionally, the report points out that, "Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians, and Europeans from North Africa are increasingly
crossing Libya’s borders on their way to Syria, probably with the blessing of
the current Libyan government." There are currently established training camps in Libya serving as a surrogate to those in Syria. The Libyan government is wary not to cross these dangerously influential terrorist networks for fear of military reprisal.
While the Libyan government has toyed with the idea of permitting Sharia Law, a fundamental principle of radicalized groups, these clandestine networks still desire autonomy. In fact a chart provided by the US military demonstrates the organization and principles of these advanced terrorist cells:
Courtesy Long War Journal
United States intelligence officials have been warning for some time about the dangers of these types of organizations. While they might not pose an immediate threat, they are receiving advanced training and could potentially shift their focus to the United States once more.
With the continuation of Executive Order 13566, President Obama is maintaining the authority to issue economic sanctions against entities associated with unjust acts contrary to the security of the state of Libya and its people. Many blame the president, in part, for the current situation in Libya after his decision to assist in the rebellion and then pull out.
The United States did not take the initiative or responsibility in leading rebel forces against the Gadhafi regime. Rather, they simply provided limited assistance to allied French and British forces who led the international coalition. This does not negate the fact that there are still direct national security concerns associated with the current Libyan situation. Al-Qaeda is expanding and their influence is growing. The US must develop strategies to combat these training facilities that draw from numerous ethnic backgrounds and nations. Al-Qaeda is mobilizing and organizing, the US should to be too.