Powerful weapons looted from Libyan stockpiles escaped the clutches of concerned NATO officials and found their way to conflicts across Africa and the Middle East, including Mali, where they bolstered the arsenal of radical Islamists and changed the course of the war. The NYT‘s indefatigable C.J. Chivers reports:
The projectiles in question were NR-160s, antitank munitions manufactured by a now-defunct company in Belgium that in the 1970s and 1980s extensively sold arms to Colonel Qaddafi’s military. Fired through American-designed recoilless rifles [the M40] that have a history in Libya since early in the cold war, the projectiles were identical to ordnance documented in Libya in 2011.
They had been left behind in Konna by Islamists who had been pounded by an aerial attack, and suffered many losses. […]
The M40 ultimately proved to be one of the most effective weapons that the rebels acquired, and it was repeatedly used to breach buildings where pro-Qaddafi soldiers had hidden.
Wherever it is, Qaddafi’s ghost is laughing. Based on the evidence discovered by Chivers, his colleagues, and others, one can trace a clear line from NATO’s intervention in Libya to France’s intervention in Mali. This was an unintended consequence of course, but a reality nonetheless.