Ever Vigilant

State Department counterproliferation officials have been engaged in Libya since NATO military operations commenced there in March 2011 to round up small arms, such as man-portable air defense systems, before they proliferate, said Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro. They “are trying to incorporate” the lessons of those activities as they prepare for potential action in Syria should the government of Bashar al Assad fall, Shapiro told reporters in Washington, D.C., on July 27. He said concerns about arms proliferation from Syria are even greater than they were in Libya. In Libya, the State Department had people on the ground in Benghazi working to find MANPADS “as soon as we could,” he noted. But Syria is a “much different challenge” because it is said to possess chemical weapons in addition to its large conventional arms depots—including MANPADS, he said. There is no evidence yet of MANPADS leakage from Syria, noted Shapiro. But, the State Department is “robustly planning” for contingency scenarios involving the proliferation of Syrian conventional weapons, he said.