Commentary Magazine


Echoes of Afghanistan in Syria?

As if to buttress my earlier item on the dangers of outsourcing support for Syrian rebels to the Qataris and other Gulf Arabs, the New York Times carries this report on the worrisome consequences of earlier outsourcing the support of Libyan rebels to Qatar.

The newspaper reports: “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.”

And it is not only in Libya that those arms have been a destabilizing influence: “Some of the arms since have been moved from Libya to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali, where radical jihadi factions have imposed Shariah law in the northern part of the country, the former Defense Department official said. Others have gone to Syria, according to several American and foreign officials and arms traders.”

The dangers of allowing Gulf states to act as our proxies should have been clear from the experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s where the Saudis empowered the most radical mujahideen groups, some of which are now fighting U.S. troops. Libya reinforces that lesson. Yet, bizarrely, we are making precisely the same mistake today in Syria.