After the U.S. helped Libyans oust Moammar Gadhafi, hundreds of surface-to-air missiles and other dangerous weapons fell into the hands of Libyan rebels and terror groups. Americans are now footing the bill for a $30 million program to track down the weapons.
Under the program, the U.S. government has sent 14 civilian military contractors to help the Libyan transitional government search for the weapons, according to an article in The Washington Post.
President Barack Obama refused to send U.S. soldiers to Libya for the missile retrieval mission to avoid raising ire in the region and from members of Congress at home. Despite the lack of military involvement, the contractor mission represents the biggest weapons-retrieval initiative since those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the rebel raids on the Gadhafi compound last month, Libyan rebels — many of whom are linked to al-Qaida — were said to be seen looting hundreds of weapons, including assault rifles, grenades and shoulder-fired missiles. The U.S. urgency in recovering the surface-to-air missiles stems from the ability of those weapons to shoot down commercial aircraft; in fact, 40 commercial planes have been shot down in such manner since the 1970s.
Last week, security forces apprehended several Libyan missiles en route to Egypt, where they are often sold on the black market. Reportedly, in regions with a high number of surface-to-air missile black market sales, the number available is so high that the price of a missile has dropped from $10,000 to about $4,000.