Sunday, October 16, 2011

U.S. Sending More Contractors to Secure Libya’s Weapons Stockpile

Via NY Times -

The State Department is sending dozens of American contractors to Libya to help that country’s fledgling efforts to track down and destroy heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles looted from government stockpiles that could be used against civilian airliners.

The contractors, weapons and explosives specialists, are part of a growing $30 million American program to secure Libya’s conventional weapons arsenal, which was ransacked during the fall of the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

American and other Western officials are especially concerned that as weapons slip from state custody, they can be easily sold through black markets to other countries, fueling regional wars or arming terrorist groups. Analysts are particularly worried about the dispersal of the SA-7, an early-generation, shoulder-fired missile in the same family as the more widely known Stinger.

“We are very concerned about the threat that’s posed,” Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told reporters on Friday after meetings in Brussels.

Mr. Shapiro said he had no estimate as to how many of the roughly 20,000 shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that had been in Libya were unaccounted for since the fall of Colonel Qaddafi, but added, “In the wrong hands these systems could pose a potential threat to civil aviation.”

The State Department so far has sent 14 unarmed civilian contractors, many with military experience, to be part of teams led by Libya’s Transitional National Council, according to David I. McKeeby, a department spokesman. Mr. McKeeby said that an additional two to three dozen contractors would join the effort over the coming weeks.

The teams have surveyed and secured 20 of the former government’s 36 known ammunition depots, encompassing several hundred bunkers at each site, and have destroyed or disabled hundreds of the shoulder-fired missiles, he said. The deployment of the American contractors was reported on Friday by The Washington Post.


FAS: Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) Proliferation

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