On the Hunt for MANPADS in Libya

The United States is currently engaged in Libya “in the most extensive effort to combat the proliferation” of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in US history, said Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. Thus far, teams of US officials, working on the ground in Libya with allies like Britain and the Libyan government, “have helped to identify, recover, and secure approximately 5,000” of these man-portable air defense systems and components, said Shapiro in a speech at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. However, officials “don’t know and probably never will” be able to determine just how many MANPADS former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s government had stockpiled, he said. Plus, there’s no way to know for sure how many of them survived NATO’s air strikes against weapons storage sites or how many of them militias and private citizens got their hands on during last year’s Libyan conflict, he noted. “We cannot rule out that some weapons may have leaked out of Libya,” said Shapiro during his Feb. 2 address. The concern is that terrorist groups like al Qaeda might acquire them.