Security experts question U.S. support of NATO strikes against Gadhafi

NATO launched a campaign against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in support of the rebels, while many in the security field were in disbelief.  Members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Al Qaeda affiliate, led the rebel forces. How ironic to be targeting Bin Laden, yet supporting his Libyan affiliates at the same time.

Take for example, Abdel Hakim al Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, who admitted the very jihadists who targeted our troops in Iraq were leading the charge in Libya.

Or Former LIFG commander Abdul Hakim Belhaj (aka Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq), who was released under a de-radicalization program, but declared of Gadhafi, “The tyrant fled and we will be after him.”

Rather than working towards a negotiated solution, these forces appear to have used reconciliation to strengthen their forces prior to launching their attack.  While Gadhafi worked to normalize relations with the world by releasing political prisoners and allowing greater freedoms, they built their organization and strength to stage a revolution. There is a real possibility this group will hold senior leadership positions in the resulting state, while the LIFG remains on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

United States support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s removal elicits a similar response.  Mubarak held the peace in the Middle East for decades, and his departure may have enabled the Muslim Brotherhood — the parent organization to Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya, to Hamas, to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others — to seize power in Egypt and diminish the freedoms and security of minorities and women.  Ayman al Zawahiri, now Al Qaeda’s leader, began his road to terrorism with the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical Egyptian groups.

Terming the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa as the ‘Arab Spring’ invites visions of Prague — a people yearning for freedom and self-determination.  Yet the ‘Arab Spring’ is rife with other dangers.  If the violent and regressive elements of the revolution assume control, the citizens, particularly women, may find themselves more repressed than before, as happened with the period of Taliban control in Afghanistan.

After Gadhafi had chosen to begin to work with other nations on disarmament, released political prisoners, and worked to normalize relations and trade, the same nations turned against him.  This betrayal may hurt the nation’s ability to influence repressive regimes in the future.  As the North Korean government stated in March, Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear weapons program made it vulnerable to military intervention, and the Libyan government appears to have been duped.

Joan Neuhaus Schaan is the fellow in homeland security and terrorism at the Baker Institute, coordinator of the Texas Security Forum, and serves on the advisory board of the Transborder International Police Association. She has served as the executive director of the Houston-Harris County Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council and on the board of Crime Stoppers of Houston, Inc.