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France Arming Libyan Rebels

by John Reed on June 29, 2011

So it looks like NATO has begun arming the Libyan rebels, or at least the French have.

Makes me wonder if this tricked out FN2000 (shown above) was really seized from a Gadhafi loyalist, or was it provided by the French?

From AFP:

The French military confirmed June 29 that it had air-dropped “light weapons” earlier this month to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Ghadafi’s forces in the highlands south of Tripoli.

Earlier, the Le Figaro newspaper and a well-placed nongovernment source had said that France had dropped several tons of arms, including Milan anti-tank rockets and light armored vehicles, to the rebels.

But Col. Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff, told AFP that the shipments were essentially light arms such as assault rifles to help civilian communities protect themselves from regime troops.

Burkhard said France had become aware in early June that rebel-held Berber villages in the Djebel Nafusa highland region south of the capital had come under pressure from the Libyan strongman’s loyalist forces.

“We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies,” he said. “During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defense, mainly ammunition.”

Burkhard described the arms as “light infantry weapons of the rifle type” and said the drops were carried out over several days “so that civilians would not be massacred”.

According to Le Figaro, which said it had seen a secret intelligence memo and talked to well-placed officials, the drops were designed to help rebel fighters encircle Tripoli and encourage a popular revolt in the city itself.

“If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Ghadafi,” said an official quoted in the report. “The regime’s mercenaries are no longer getting paid and are scarcely getting fed. There’s a severe fuel shortage, the population has had enough.”

A well-placed nongovernment source told AFP that 40 tons of weapons including “light armored cars” had been delivered to rebels in western Libya.

According to Le Figaro, the French arms shipments are dropped from planes across the Djebel Nafusa region, where Berber tribes have risen to join the revolt against Ghadafi’s rule and seized several provincial towns.

The crates hold assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, it said, and also European-made Milan anti-tank missiles, a powerful addition to the rebel arsenal that can destroy a tank or a bunker.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Schmoe June 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Wait, they dropped Milan's? Are they friggin insane?

Have we not learnt anything about what happens to advanced weapons once the conflict is over?


William A. Peterson June 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Advanced weapons? Are you kidding? I was reading about the MILAN back in High School, which I graduated in 1974! Come on!


Joe Schmoe June 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Most MRAPs have 1/4 of a inch of armor for example, this missile can penetrate over 13 inches of armor and is guided. Now compared with the run of the mill RPG's that most terrorists have, this is advanced.


orly? June 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm

ATGMs have been used before by terrorists FYI.

However them having more is not a good thing, I hope their contacts are "good" and the supply "limited."


blight June 30, 2011 at 12:06 am

I'd be more freaked out about tandem warheads for RPGs, or god forbid seeing Russian fuel-air/thermobaric RPG warheads. Conceal RPG tube in a crowd carrying a "coffin". Grab RPG and attack vehicle. Run into mosque, climb over fence through a hospital and disappear.

Versus a SACLOS ATGM which depends on standoff. Pop smoke and retreat, or use UAVs ahead of your main force, find early and blast with Hellfires. There are a few situations where SACLOS ATGMs are useful, and that's holding terrain a la Fallujah or Beiruit; or in Hezbollah's case, when they were defending in depth with large bunker networks.


Brian Black June 30, 2011 at 4:31 am

Assuming the rebels win, they'll then have control of all Libya's military arsenal; and they will then be able to buy tanks, jets, missiles and all sorts of other toys just like every other regime around the world. So why get your knickers in a twist over a few rifles?


blight June 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Conversely, if FN Herstal was selling FN2000's to Libya, who else?


Marcase June 29, 2011 at 3:21 pm

The FN2000 shown is from Belgium's FN Herstal, and had been delivered to Ghadafi's Republican Guard and other loyal troops a few years ago, shortly after the arms embargo was (partly) lifted.

Milan's are high on the list of rebel forces, as the many-many "technicals" (armed jeeps) are the main threat as of now, and are hard to hit by rebel RPG gunners – the overall gunnery skills of the Libyan rebels aren't impressive, to say the least.
The Milan is also usefull against sniper/machine gun positions.

There are British and French special forces – ahem, "instructors" on the ground supporting the Libyan rebels, and they will supervise training and deployment of the Milan ATGWs.
Also, the Milan is OLD – many missiles and guidance packages are approaching end-of-shelf-life, and the technology is known and copied worldwide.


blight June 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

FN2000's aren't the first weapon I would pick if I wanted plausible deniability. FN FALs, AK's, whatever Gaddafi's troops are already using, not noveau stuff.

Why not just send them TOW systems-even the Iranians make them, so it's not like it's a big coup for Al Qaeda.


Jeff M June 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Because plausible deniability doesn't matter. Get with the program. It's demoralizing for the loyalists to be using shitty ak's when the rebels are armed with these high tech "western" looking weapons.


blight July 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

Of course it matters. We haven't yet officially come out to rearm the Libyan rebels a la Nickel Grass (though we could).

I doubt Gaddafi loyalists will be impressed with new weapons if they're simply fired into the air just as they would. For that, they need tube and rocket artillery.


Drake1 June 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Arming al-queda. Wait till we are next.


AT4 June 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm

France is not the source of these weapons. Libya bought a huge stockpile from FN back in 2009.


froggy June 30, 2011 at 8:01 pm

thank you for your honnesty !

Belgium is quite a well known arms mnufacturer !

Remember, Napoleon used to get his arms from Walloon region too (before that Belgium was created as a independant entity by the Brits, to prevent France from becoming arms from there)


asdf June 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm

elite forces weapons, what can i say?


blight June 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Meaning "niftiest looking weapons to impress people", though the FN2000 has some very interesting tech to go with it.


Nadnerbus June 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Western governments air dropping assault rifles into 3rd world countries while they often do their best to disarm their own citizens. It's a brave new world.


Trevor June 29, 2011 at 8:03 pm

France has never been none to be intelligent when it comes to anything related to military matters. They just get all emotional and then make a decision. Kinda like a female.


Chimp June 30, 2011 at 6:40 am

Haha… you''re kidding. I'm no Frog lover, but their military is pretty good. The FFL is one of the best light infantry units around. "Like a woman" is not how I'd describe them.

On the other hand, I would describe French foreign policy as essentially two faced.

When others use their military, there's lots of hand wringing. Iraq is a great example of this.

On the other hand, when no one is looking, and the natives are restless, it's "Send in the Legion"… and then the problem goes away forever.


blight June 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

The Legion did well tactically but couldn't singlehandedly avert strategic defeat in Algeria or Indochina. That said, geopolitics in America since Eisenhower hasn't exactly been intelligent.


Kevin June 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm

The FFL is, and always has been an important, but MARGINAL part of the french armed forces, and now more than ever (it remains part of the 'tip of the spear', but has been severely downsized by de gaulle, as part of his ongoing culling of the french army after the 1961 failed Generals coup, before that, it was much like the USMC, with an independent artillery, some air capacity,…).

In most foreign interventions, the FFL must be, say, 10-15% of the total (those were the firgures for indochina IIRC, it must have been quite lower in algeria, seeing that this was a war fought by conscripts, as opposed to the volunteers force of indochina).

The bulk of the french troops used for the usual african safaris (someting like 40? military interventions in africa since the 60's) usually are plain vanilla marines, the -IMA light infantry (RPIMA, BIMA, RIMA,…). French troops in afghanistan are more likely to be mountain troops, but marines are there too.
The FFL is all but 6-10K out of 130K, but it seems that their romantic appeal coupled with certains bias (ahem) means that for the average american/english, french army = FFL.


Kevin June 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

"When others use their military, there's lots of hand wringing. Iraq is a great example of this. "

Honestly, apart from iraq, I can't recall a single issue of this. There can be a direct interference (kinda like when the socialist prez prevented the overflight of France when tripoli was to be bombed, but this was part of french intercecine politics, and had not a lot to do with any kind of military rationale, the french had been bombing K-daffy whenever it suited them by that time, and even had a couple land wars, proxy or not, with him), there can be some kind iof involvement (cf. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1387576/Ho… ),… but there certainly is no blanket "handwringing" about other countries.


WHAT June 29, 2011 at 9:22 pm

O-peration: I-ndependent L-ibya

Business as usual…


Rob June 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm

As usual we doing this all wrong. Either declare outright war on the regime or drop them enough 2nd rate tanks, hummers, body armor as well as munitions so they can establish an area & defend it from Tripoli.

Drop medical supplies & food rations in the cities rebel hold.

Most of their population is near Tripoli in a 50 by 50 mile square along the sea.

NATO so crushed by world economy that it cannot even properly help wanted allies?


blight June 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm

A "second rate tank" is still a regional threat to Libya's neighbors. So is body armor (which up until now hasn't distributed into the arms black market).

The whole point of our half-baked intervention is that one side of the house wants no intervention whatsoever; how do you propose shipping heavy armor?


Jeff M June 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm
blight July 1, 2011 at 8:03 am

"After production, the Army turned the Liberators over to the OSS. A crude and clumsy weapon, the Liberator was never intended for front line service. It was originally intended as an insurgency weapon to be mass dropped behind enemy lines to resistance fighters in occupied territory. A resistance fighter was to recover the weapon, sneak up on an Axis occupier, kill or incapacitate him, and retrieve his weapons."

So you're proposing to drop guns on /Gaddafi/ occupied parts of Libya…?


Jeff m July 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

Just pointing out that there doesnt need to be a delivery of tanks if you can shoot the loyalist tank commander and take his.


McJustice February 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm

You're an idiot, why would you help Al-Qaeda re-arm in northern Africa? Just so they can terrorize Algeria some more?


blight February 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Al Qaeda will always live on the fringes of the Maghreb; regardless of who's in charge in Libya. "Muslim religious country" doesn't always synonymize with "official supporter of Al Qaeda". If anything, Al Qaeda often pushes overt religious orthodoxy and then tries to supplant the local political authority for their own: which rankles everyone. Al Qaeda was even able to alienate the local Iraqis after many years.


stef June 30, 2011 at 12:20 am

Before everybody jump in the "weapons to al-qaida", it should be noted that the airdrops was on berber areas and berber are definitely not al-qaeda material.
As for the FN2000, it shows up in Misurata, where the Khamis brigade was engaged (and defeated).


Jon June 30, 2011 at 2:54 am

A waste of French money. The rebels would be better off with AKs they can readily find ammo for.


Jeff M June 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm

You think you could readily find ammo in Libya? What would you do go to walmart? This is a huge improvement over an AK, the accuracy with scope is an order of magnitude improvement.


Brian Black June 30, 2011 at 4:34 am

About time too!

We've wasted months, during which time we could have been arming and training the rebels. This whole thing may even have been over by now if we'd pulled our fingers out and armed them from the start.


Skysoldier173 June 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

I been seeing many FAL's in use by Libyan rebs. They usually are firing into the air, wasting ammo..wat a great battle rifle. Milan ATGM's? That is not a good move-unles there are French SF to use them and keep track of them. One day they will turn on us. BOOK IT> Solid money dude..


blight June 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Surprised they didn't just dump a pile of surplus RPG-7s and old AKM's. Their fighting style is not particularly inspirational, and echoes of the indecisive posturing/skirmishing that marred conflicts in the distant past before "total war" was devised and perfected.


Skysoldier173 June 30, 2011 at 11:57 am

The chicoms dump sh*tty weapons on the market, l;ike the SKS, its junk. The good AK's were made in Russia or Eastern Europe. Now, Arsenal of Nevada makes the best AK's and they are well made.


blight June 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm

"Elite rebels"? Too much Jagged Alliance?

And here:

"not only a force magnifier in the war against Ghadafi but could greatly increase the political power after the war of what ever group is receiving this help."

Delicious. So if you have two foreign-trained units, after the war you have two factions with soldiers armed to the teeth and ready to tear the country a new one?


AT4 June 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I say again. France did not drop FN FS2000's over Libya. FN sold these to Libya in 2009. This is a captured weapon. Now, if France dropped other weapons like FAL's then that's another story, but the FS2000 in that picture is not one of them.


froggy June 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm

"or was it provided by the French?"

yeah, like the WMD to Saddam !

if you were honnest, you should have better investigated who provide Kadhafi such arms !

chose, between Britain, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, China, North Korea !

the only proposed purchases from France, were to repear the old mirages, that Kadhafi would may-be re-sell to a african country, and rafales were in the balance.

Anyway, this trade never has been achieved, only 4 Mirages out of 22 were repeared !


Jeff M June 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I think they should have delivered a bunch of RKG-3 anti-tank hand grenades. Seems safer than the guided missiles but should work almost as good and be safer and protect against "blowback".


blight June 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

If France was still an occupier/colonizer of Algeria, emigration would probably be much greater. Whether or not divesting of Algeria was a good idea depends on your point of view.


seo companies March 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm
Jacob June 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Good god, how cynical can you get? The Libyan rebels are not the Al-Qaeda type, and any future Libyan government that replaces Gahdafi has every incentive to secure the weapons used by various rebel militias. Every human society puts security at the top of their priorities, and that means you don't let civilians carry around anti-tank missile launchers unchecked.


Brian Black June 30, 2011 at 4:28 am

The Iranian Republican Guard operates right across North Africa, supplying arms and cash to radical Islamic groups. A few French rifles in the hands of the Libyan rebels won't bring about the end of the world.


froggy June 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm

idiot, these are your weapons !


Jeff M June 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

This attitude is reminiscent of the anti-gun crowd in the US. "How long before Mexican cartel are using these guns!" Check yourself.


orly? June 29, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Key word is some.


blight June 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

There's no point dumping old tanks that don't have a local parts train. They'd probably be happier with technicals with ATGMs (essentially the same deal we gave the Chadians to evict the Libyan Army)


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