US pays European groups $1 million to hunt for anti-aircraft missiles in Libya

Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The U.S. is paying two European mine-clearing groups nearly $1 million to hunt and dispose of loose anti-aircraft missiles that could make their way from Libyan battlefields to terror groups.

The hiring of weapons demolition experts hardly dampens concerns about anti-aircraft missiles still in the hands of the Gadhafi regime’s military, which amassed nearly 20,000 of the weapons before the popular uprising started in March.
The State Department’s hiring of British and Swiss weapons demolition teams in Libya was prodded by fears that terrorists could use scavenged man-portable air defense systems, known as MANPADS. The action came after American and allied authorities made it clear to Libyan opposition figures that their cooperation on the missile launchers would be a factor in future assistance, said U.S. and United Nations officials familiar with the discussions.

“From the U.S. point of view, it was an issue of paramount importance,” said Justin Baker, officer-in-charge of the U.N. Mine Action Service, which is overseeing the weapons disposal effort in Libya. “The Libyans seemed to get the big picture of what was necessary to present a credible international face.”

The move has no effect on the massive numbers of mostly Russian-built anti-aircraft launchers and missiles still in the hands of Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. While some shoulder-held and truck-mounted launchers were pillaged by rebel forces when they seized Libyan ammunition stocks, the vast majority are still held by the regime.

“I can’t imagine the U.S. can do anything about Gadhafi’s inventory until they defeat him or negotiate his exit,” said Matthew Schroeder, an arms expert with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. “But even without that, securing any MANPADS loose in Libya is a good thing.”

US pays European groups $1 million to hunt for anti-aircraft missiles in Libya - The Washington Post

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