Our Intervention in Libya Has Unintended Consequences in Mali and Nigeria


The recent events in Libya have prompted renewed discussions about our foreign policy. Although validity of the narrative of this week's events is far from obvious the fact remains that a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered in a county that we had a part in liberating. While it is not yet clear what motivated those who killed Ambassador Stevens and three other consulate employees the attacks on diplomatic missions this week provide an ideal opportunity to reflect on the unintended consequences of our foreign policy.

In Libya the overthrow of Gaddafi has displaced mercenary fighters and militants outside of Libya where they have been inflicting misery on local populations for months.  

Throughout the Libyan conflict Gaddafi used mercenaries from neighboring countries such as Chad and Mali. These mercenaries included Tuaregs, nomads who live across numerous countries in northwest Africa. After Gaddafi's defeat many of these Tuareg mercenaries started moving into northern Mali. From a News24 report at the time:

The repatriation of hundreds of fighters is "a serious worry", UN special envoy to west Africa Said Djinnit told reporters on Friday. The men arrived "in confusion, with big re-entry problems, which has increased the insecurity in the north of Mali".

He added: "Heavy weapons, missiles, convoys of hundreds of vehicles, including technicals [armed 4x4s] circulating freely … are commonplace. There are potential buyers for these weapons: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [and] drug rings."

As Ed noted back in July, Al Qaeda elements within these mercenary groups did indeed begin to wreck havoc in northern Mali. These mercenaries and their supporters have been ensuring that Shariah has been harshly implemented in northern Mali. Militias have begun to emerge in response to the Malian government's inability to defend the country from this sort of invasion and oppression.

It is not only in Mali that the unintended consequences of our intervention in Libya are being seen. In Nigeria a former president and government officials have said that the fall of Gaddafi helped arm Boko Haram, a particularly nasty jihadist group. Minister of the Interior Abba Moro made the following comments in July:

Government believes that part of the problems that we have today, the challenges of internal security stemmed from the activities in Libya.

It is indeed an open secret that even though, we did not share common border with Libya, arms and weapons have found their ways into Nigeria from that North African country.

The recent misery inflicted on Mali and Nigeria should motivate policy makers to be more wary of foreign intervention. However, given recent history and the two men running on the Democratic and Republic tickets, I don't have many reasons to be optimistic.