Clinton’s Biggest Fear: Libya As a Big Somalia, Says Al Qaeda Affiliates Are Biggest Threat

Mar 2, 2011 2:00pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: Over the past couple days Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has listed several possible outcomes to the unrest in Libya, ranging from a stable democracy, to protracted civil war, to chaos. “The stakes are high,” she repeated. Today she revealed her biggest fear: “One of our biggest concerns is Libya descending into chaos and becoming a giant Somalia,” she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. Clinton expressed her concern about the number of al Qaeda recruits that have come from Libya, suggesting the power vacuum that could result from the unrest in that country could be ripe for exploitation from terror groups, such as what has happened in Somalia which has been without a strong central government for over a decade and a half. “It's right now not something that we see in the offing, but many of the al-Qaeda activists in Afghanistan and later in Iraq came from Libya and came from eastern Libya, which is now the so-called free area of Libya,” she noted. Clinton made her remarks as part of an assessment about al Qaeda’s capabilities in the Middle East. She said that what she called “core al Qaeda,” which centers around Osama bin Laden and his close aides, has diminished capacity. However, she warned that the terror group’s affiliates in Yemen, North Africa, and Iraq (where, she said, 1,000 al Qaeda fighters remain) pose a grave and real threat. “We have made — we have made progress against core al-Qaeda. Core al-Qaeda does not have the reach or the capacity.  It still serves as a financing mechanism, as an inspirational — sort of focal point for a lot of jihadists around the world.  But it doesn't have quite the impact,” Clinton said. Clinton said al Qaeda’s affiliates are now the greatest threat to the United States, and fighting them is the Obama administration’s “highest priority.” “We are literally working as hard as we can every single day, because there's no doubt that al-Qaeda and its affiliates continue to plot against us, plot against our European allies, plot against many other countries,” she said.

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