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March 29th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

'Flickers' of al Qaeda in Libyan opposition, U.S. NATO leader says

Jennifer Rizzo
CNN National Security Producer

Washington (CNN) - There is a good chance NATO pressure will encourage Libyan tyrant Moammar Gadhafi to leave power, the U.S. NATO commander told Congress Tuesday, but the opposition that could come in the Libyan leader's wake has "flickers" of al Qaeda.

While there is a wide range of possible outcomes in Libya, running from a static stalemate to Gadhafi cracking, there is a "more than reasonable" chance of Gadhafi leaving power, Adm. James Stavridis said before the Senate Armed Services Committee,

But potential "flickers" of al Qaeda and Hezbollah elements have been seen in intelligence regarding the Libyan opposition, which is poised to take power if Gadhafi leaves, Stavridis said. However, he added there is no evidence of a significant presence of al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. Stavridis is also the commander of U.S. European Command.

"The intelligence that I'm receiving at this point makes me feel that the leadership that I'm seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Col. Gadhafi," Stavridis added.

The comments come the same day as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a leader of Libya's opposition in London. Clinton and the heads of 40 other countries met Tuesday to discuss Libya's future.

A senior counterterrorism official, unnamed because he is not authorized to speak on the record, backed up Stavridis' assessment, downplaying the concern about al Qaeda among the Libyan opposition.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    It would be surprising if there weren't some al Queda among the rebels. With their training they may be able to help the rebels out quite a bit in fighting Gadhafi's forces. At least for once their fighting acumen is being put to use on the side of the people – kind of ironic really.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Patrick

    The West, after reading the Admiral's statement above, reminds me of when they supplied arms to Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan to fight the Russians. Long after the Russians left Al – Qaeda used the SAM surface – to – air missiles and other weapons against the allies.

    I'm thinking of that true story and movie called Charlie Wilson's War, when senator Wilson persuaded elements in the USA to supply these weapons to the enemy, only for them to be, as I stated, to be turned against the allies...

    March 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm |