The Obama administration “secretly” approved arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, however, U.S. officials quickly became concerned as evidence suggested Qatar was handing the weapons over to Islamic militants, The New York Times reports, citing a number of United States officials and foreign diplomats.
There is no evidence available that suggests the U.S.-approved weapons were involved in the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, which left four Americans dead on Sept. 11. But the revelation is sure to ignite speculation.
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But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.
The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from other countries.
The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.
The Obama White House has not learned where all the weapons, paid for by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, ended up in Libya, according to officials.