As situation in Libya grows more tenuous, a senior intelligence official told the AP today that rebel fighters may fall to Gadhafi if they do not receive more coalition support. Meanwhile, those same rebel fighters are being infiltrated by jihadists who see the revolution in Libya as an opportunity to spread their Islamist ideology.
The Daily Beast reports that hundreds of al Qaeda fights may be on their way to Libya to join rebel fighters:
As the battle for the future of Libya continues, the excitement is almost palpable among Libyan-born al Qaeda fighters and other Arabs hunkered down in Pakistan's remote and lawless tribal area. According to Afghan Taliban sources close to Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, some of the 200 or so Libyans operating near the Afghan border may be on their way home to steer the anti-Gaddafi revolution in a more Islamist direction....
Since the anti-Gaddafi revolution began last month, al Qaeda—especially Libyan-born affiliates—have viewed the fighting as an opportunity to spread their radical Islamist ideology. Indeed, as one Afghan Taliban operative who helps facilitate the movement of al Qaeda militants between the tribal area and Pakistani cities told The Daily Beast earlier this month: "This rebellion is the fresh breeze they've been waiting years for. They realize that if they don't use this opportunity, it could be the end of their chances to turn Libya toward a real Islamic state, as Afghanistan once was."
And the Washington Times says that there are already about 1,000 jihadists in Libya:
A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.
And this AP report says that without more Western support, the rebels may very well fall to Gadhafi.
A senior U.S. intelligence official says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is mobilizing second-tier ground combat forces to press his counter-offensive against rebels in eastern Libya, and that he has adopted new, unconventional tactics to counter the effects of coalition airstrikes....
Gadhafi's success in dealing fresh battlefield setbacks to the opposition forces seeking his ouster is hardening the U.S. view that the rebels probably are incapable of prevailing without more decisive Western intervention. One such option under consideration is arming the rebels by the U.S. and its European partners.
What's the US to do? Increase its support of Libyan rebels who are fighting alongside jihadists? Or let Gadhafi prevail?
Meanwhile--did Matt Lauer tell Michele Bachmann that we need to have compassion for al Qaeda?