ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is calling on the Obama administration to immediately launch efforts to secure a post-Gadhafi Libya, warning that chemical weapons could wind up as part of a “black market bonanza” for terrorists.
“Once the fall of Gadhafi happens – well, then all of the jockeying and positioning happens. And we’ve seen that before,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today.
“We know he has a chemical stockpile — some 25,000 pounds of mustard gas,” Rogers said. “And he has other weapons systems — anti warcraft shoulder-fired missiles that are very, very dangerous in the hands [of anyone] beyond any legitimate government. And there it’s very concerning that these things are going to start walking away in the weeks following the actual fall of Gadhafi.”
Rogers said it falls to the United States – working with NATO allies – to make sure that weapons systems controlled by Gadhafi don’t fall into the wrong hands.
“There really is only one nation that can lead this charge that has the right capabilities that can secure these types of weapons systems — that’s the US,” Rogers said.
“I don’t think we have to send US troops. We have other capabilities and we can do it with our NATO allies. But we can bring the right people, and you don’t need a lot of them, but the right people to help facilitate the accountability of these weapons systems and to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
“What I really worry about is these missile systems becoming a black market bonanza. Remember the next month or so after the fall of Gadhafi, the economics of this country are going to be pretty bad, worse than they are now and worse than that. So the temptation to sell off this stuff — and we know that al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups are trying to get in there and buy this stuff — we know that for a fact.”
“So we don’t need big boots on the ground. We don’t need troops showing up, and we don’t need Marines on the beach. We need very special capabilities, working with our NATO allies, working with the Libyan [Transitional National Council] to see if we can’t do this early on, so we don’t have the problem later and need boots on the ground.”
Rogers said he’s hopeful that the effort can be of minimal cost to taxpayers: “We’ve seized literally billions of dollars from Gadhafi that we can use to get them through this transition. That’s their money not our money. I recommend that.”
“And we can bring — again this is separate from the weapons issues — but we can bring in the commercial expertise to get the oil flowing again. They were an oil economy before this they can and should be an oil economy after this.”
Rogers said that while he’s glad President Obama’s policies have brought an apparent end to Gadhafi’s reign, “I thought the president was too slow.”
“This just took too long,” he added. “And remember he said ‘days not weeks’ – well, you couldn’t do that in the way that he proposed. I think there were some things missing. He didn’t talk and take a leadership role about why it was important to be there on other things. That’s the part that concerned me. At this point this is a NATO victory — that’s great, good on ‘em.”
Also today, we checked in with Politico’s Alexander Burns about the tentative nature of the Republican response to events in Libya.
“The word of the day for the Republican field is caution on Libya,” Burns told us.