France Becomes Another Route for US Missiles to Reach Libyan Rebels

Libya, France

The battle of power in north African nation, Libya, is constantly soaring, and global powers have readily been intervening in the deteriorating conditions. Most of them are supporting the east rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar, who is seeking to overthrow the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.

The New York Times recently reported that a hoard of robust American missiles that were sold to France, ended up in the hands of the rebel fighters of the Libyan National Army (LNA). While the allegation of transferring the weapons is on France, one of its military advisers denied it on Tuesday.

The passing on of arms would not just breach the sales agreement with the US, but also the United Nations arms embargo. Moreover, it could also lead to a discordant between Washington and its unwavering NATO partner and ally, France over Libya policy.

Last month, militants of the Government of National Accord (GNA) conducted a raid on a rebel camp in a town south of Tripoli, Gheryan— headquarters for Haftar’s military campaign to seize control of Tripoli. The June 26 surprise attack carried out by government’s forces on Gheryan became successful, and they were able to capture the area.

During that time, they recovered four Javelin anti-tank missiles, costing over $170,000 each. These missiles are usually sold merely to the closest allies of the US. Guided by infrared technology, the Javelins are known as “fire and forget” weapons in military, and are capable of destroying all currently fielded main battle tanks.

An adviser to the French armed forces minister also confirmed on Tuesday that the Javelin Missiles discovered in Gheryan belonged to their forces. However, he stated they were damaged and could no longer be used. The Times reported that according to the adviser, the missiles were not handed over to local forces, but were instead being temporarily stored in a warehouse awaiting disruption.

The State Department has also been probing the origins of the missiles recently, by the means of the serial numbers and other information. Through the findings obtained, it concluded that the weapons were originally to France, a persistent supported of Khalifa Haftar. According to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, in 2010, France had agreed to purchased up to 260 Javelins from America.

On Monday, two US officials on the condition of anonymity stated that the State Department briefed the Senate and House foreign relations panels about its conclusion that the weapons were sold to France.

Not authorised to be identified under his government’s policy, the French adviser said that these weapons were purchased from the US in 2010, with an aim to protect the French troops deployed in Libya for counter-terrorism and intelligence operations.

He also said that France did not violate arms embargoes in Libya, turning down the question that the Javelin missiles would be sold or otherwise be handed over to “anybody” in Libya.

However, it still remains unclear how the weapons ended up in a rebel compound under Khalifa Haftar near the battle lines, where over 1,000 lives, including 106 civilians, have been lost since April, according to the United Nations.

Transfer of arms to the rebel groups, militias or other groups in proxy wars has been a common practice. Before France, reports have revealed that weapons purchased by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from the US and UK have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other rebel groups fighting in wars in Syria and Yemen.

While the name of France has just emerged, further investigations would make it clear, if the European nation has followed the lead of Saudi and the UAE.

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