2. Will terrorists take advantage of power vacuum in Libya?
Defense Department officials have made no secret of their concern that Libya could become a safe-haven for terrorists – if groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb chose to move in and set up shop. That’s because, as long as they are preoccupied with fighting, the transitional rebel authority is not focusing on securing their borders, officials point out. As a result, adds a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity, “We’re concerned that they could take advantage of the situation there.”
Indeed, Al Qaeda has publicly expressed interest in doing just that. “I think it’s safe to say that it is one of their goals – to try to set up some sort of footprint and network internally [in Libya] to plan for the long haul,” says the official. “We’re concerned about it.”
On the bright side, the Libyan rebel authorities appear, for now, to be stiff-arming terrorist groups. “It certainly seems that they’ve gone to great lengths to disassociate themselves from any ties to terrorists,” the official adds. “Right now they know to play it safe.”
That said, Ham adds that the US military continues to carefully monitor the transition authority. “Do they really implement an effective reconciliation process? Do they control the violence,” he says. “The words are right. The challenge now will be, do the actions match the words?”