U.S.: 'No firm evidence' loose weapons have left Libya
Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro (left) watches MANPAD missiles being detonated during his visit to Libya last week. AFP/Getty Images
December 19th, 2011
04:19 PM ET

U.S.: 'No firm evidence' loose weapons have left Libya

By Jamie Crawford

The effort to secure loose, portable weapons in Libya continues, but there is "no firm evidence" that any weapons have traveled outside Libyan borders, a senior State Department official said Monday.

"We are continuing our efforts to categorize and assess how many weapons are still at large," said Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary for political-military affairs. Shapiro was speaking at an event to highlight a report about U.S. efforts to rid the world of land mines and excess arms and munitions.

At issue is the ongoing effort in Libya to secure the roughly 20,000 portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that were believed to have been held by the regime of the late Moammar Gadhafi. There is a fear the weapons could pose a serious potential threat to global aviation if they fell into the hands of terrorists or insurgents.

The United States has been working with the transitional government in Libya to take as many weapons out of the hands of the various militia groups in Libya to avoid their sale on the black market elsewhere.

Approximately 5,000 such weapons have been secured to date, Shapiro said.

The 20,000 figure was based on what the administration believes the Gadhafi regime had attained since the 1970s Shapiro said.

"We don't know how many they used during their training, how many were no longer serviceable, but that's based on our review of shipping receipts and other things that we have obtained, our best estimate of how many they have," Shapiro said.

"As we go through these bunkers that were bombed, we may discover additional information that indicates that some of them were used during training or had been destroyed or are no longer serviceable. So that was the high-end number that we had of how many the Gadhafi regime had obtained since the 1970s," he said.

The mitigation of such threats is of "paramount concern" in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the same event. Clinton said the United States has been working with Libyan authorities to inspect known storage sites of MANPADS since the early days of the NATO-led effort to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Gadhafi's forces.

"We are now working together to inventory these stockpiles and destroy" those weapons that exceed Libya's defense needs, she said.

Updating reporters on his recent visit to Libya, Shapiro said, "Thus far we have not seen any firm evidence that (the weapons) have left the country, but we are obviously very concerned about it, and that's why we have such a substantial effort on the ground in Libya to work with the Libyan authorities to secure these weapons."

Shapiro said the United States believes that "perhaps thousands" of MANPADS were destroyed during the NATO bombing campaign, and the rest are mostly held by various Libyan militia groups who looted the stockpiles of Gadhafi forces following Gadhafi's ouster from power.

The United States is working with the Libyan government to persuade militia members to turn these weapons in and take them out of circulation, Shapiro said. In addition, inspection teams across Libya are visiting sites that were bombed by NATO to get an idea of how many weapons were destroyed. Both efforts were a subject of Shapiro's discussions with Libyan officials during his visit last week, he said.

Both Clinton and Shapiro spoke at event to release the 10th annual "To Walk the Earth in Safety" report. The report summarizes the actions and accomplishments of the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program, including the U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Program, the most extensive effort to help countries safely dispose of land mines and excess arms and munitions.

Since 1993, the United States committed nearly 1.9 billion dollars for the safe disposal of small arms, light weapons, munitions and land mines and other unexploded ordnance in 81 countries, the report said.

Post by:
Filed under: Clinton • Gadhafi • Libya • State Department • weapons
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. ram

    Who is helping the United States to get rid of the excess arms and bombs that exceed the need for their protection? Can world leaders at least pay some attention to the trend in the world today? Who nominated the usa to be the world policeman?

    December 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Reply
    • plbogle

      "Who nominated the usa to be the world policeman?" All freedom loving people of this world and our military power and capabilities!!!

      December 26, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply
  2. Chris

    Funny how this article talks about American efforts to rid the world of "excess" munitions, when the United States is the biggest exporter and producer of weapons in the world. You never signed the UN Landmines treaty which banned the use of landmines around the globe. Bravo on the effort, but if you dont want to sound like a bunch of hypocrities, lower your own arms production and stopping send weapons to crazy countries like Pakistan.

    December 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  3. Patroit

    Never seen so many idiots critizing their own country maybe you should move to Iran or North Korea and then complain we are all citizens of this small world and we need to control all the nutcases in all parts of this small world

    December 21, 2011 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • UB6IB9

      Who said?

      December 21, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  4. John

    Then, why are we spending time and money looking for them? The bad guys only need a few and only to work to make their point. This is nuts.

    December 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  5. Ben

    Uhhh doesn't anyone find it funny how the guns being sold/given end up in the countries that the US ends putting "boots on the ground" in? History repeating itself again...

    December 20, 2011 at 1:23 am | Reply
  6. whosurdaddy

    Becase the bullets match the death?

    December 20, 2011 at 12:18 am | Reply
  7. brown

    The government has no freakin' idea where the weapons are. They will probably end of in some remote
    corner of JFK pointing upward.

    December 19, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      How right you are! Well said.

      They couldn't find Gadaffi for months – how would they know where to START looking for crates of armsd and ammo in cars, trucks and stuffed under peoples beds!!!!!!

      December 19, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Reply
    • UB6IB9

      I am more worried about the mountian of yellow cake.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  8. Frank

    "A large amount of weapons went missing during Libya’s civil war which erupted in February and resulted in the capture and subsequent killing of Muammar Qaddafi by opposition fighters in October." From Al arabiya news.

    December 19, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  9. NudeTruth

    Was this intel given to use by Eric Holder?

    December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Reply
    • UB6IB9

      I'm sure he has already sent them to the Mexican cartels.

      December 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  10. Zoglet

    Right, so we are all supposed to beleive a darn word that the state department tell us about weapons any place ever again?
    Please, why would we?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Reply
  11. Michael

    There was no "firm evidence" that Gaddhafi was going to kill 10's of thousands of innocent civilians in Bengzhai either!! Or that Assad's regime has killed 5k innocent civilians in Syria.

    I don't think I've every been so humiliated by the actions of my government for nefarious reasons as I was in 2011 ... well, maybe not since the invasion of Iraq to get rid of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      What this government is doing in terms of destroying the self-esteem of ordinary, decent Americans is nothing short of disgusting. It's one lie after another and it's unforgiveable.

      December 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Reply
  12. Sokka1

    Yep, let's downplay the danger like we over-highlighted Iraqi WMD capability! Only a fool would believe that hogwash....

    December 19, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply
    • UB6IB9

      We didn't find them because they where located in green crates marked maid in the USA.

      Iran Contra

      December 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Reply

Leave a Reply to UB6IB9


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.