Foreign Policy Blogs

Libyan War: Know Your Friends

Everyone would agree that the United States needs to take their enemies seriously, know who they are, and what they stand for. This is why I get so frustrated when the Obama administration has gone out of the way to not use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Islamism’, and now, even ‘war’. It should also be noted that just as important as knowing your enemies is to know who your friends or allies are, both in times of peace and war. Who are the US allies in our current war in Libya?

From the outside, though the coalition is smaller than any major multilateral American operation since the end of the Cold War, it includes strong US allies like the UK, France, and now NATO as a whole, and also the Arab League (for the moment at least) and three other Arab states. But when one looks at America’s allies inside of Libya, some questions arise. During the drum up to war, I remember hearing a story that the areas where the Libyan rebels were based in the east of the country was also were a majority of foreign combatants fighting in the Iraq war originated from. So I did some searching and found these two charts from Time magazine:

Time got this data from West Point and it only covers August 2006-August 2007, a period of great violence in Iraq. As can be seen, on a per-capita basis, Libya was the mother of a large percentage of foreign fighters coming to attack American and Iraqi government forces. The next chart….

breaks down the exact location in Libya where the foreign fighters originated from. Yes, that’s right. Benghazi and and Darnah are both home to the rebel movement currently battling Qaddafi and receiving US/Allied support. It has also been reported that a rebel leader, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, fought against the US and NATO in Afghanistan.

Now this isn’t in itself a reason not to help these insurgents or to topple Qaddafi’s regime. Libya’s rebels also have a government in waiting that has strong French support and we should not judge a whole region or people for the actions of a small minority. This is just something that should be duly noted as we go forward in this still murky war effort. After all, what do we do if the rebels win?

Add a comment

Comments (3)

  1. Collin A. Spears Monday - 04 / 04 / 2011 Reply
    Patrick: What you are saying is true, and all due respect as to what you are trying to get at, but its a bit misleading, IMHO. The Sinjar document that these numbers come from state that only 137 Libyans fought in Iraq. I'm not sure how significant that is. . Also, the graph is skewed because of the lower population of Libya (6.5 million) vs that of Saudi Arabia (26 million), where, 305, the majority of foreign fighters at that time were from. So while there are significant questions about who the Libyan rebels are and what they want/ will do. And while the area these people came from might be significant to a general trend or epicenter of a radical Islamic den in Libya, that remains to be seen. Basically we have a ways to go before we can declare Qadaffi correct in his statements that the America, Britain, and France are "aiding Al Qaeda"...etc
  2. Patrick Frost
    Patrick Frost Wednesday - 27 / 04 / 2011 Reply
    Great points Collin. I definitely didn't want to portray the Libyan rebels as 'Al Qaida's best buddies', I just wanted to point out something that seemed to be missing from most major news media reports and from the Obama administration and other pols like Senator McCain. The situation in Libya is complicated to say the least and I just hope our leaders are taking all of these factors into account in their decision making process.


Add a comment


Patrick Frost
Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO

GreadDecisions in foreign policy discussion group ad v2