A new report being prepared for policymakers on Capitol Hill suggests that the Arab Spring in Libya has paved the way for an extreme Islamist takeover. An advanced copy of "A View to Extremist Currents in Libya," was obtained by Fox News and indicates that the secular-driven Libyan revolution is losing ground to extremists and a figure with ties to al Qaida is rising to power.
"Despite early indications that the Libyan revolution might be a largely secular undertaking ... the very extremist currents that shaped the philosophies of Libya Salafists and jihadis like [Abd al-Hakim] Belhadj appear to be coalescing to define the future of Libya," wrote Michael S. Smith II, a principal and counterterrorism adviser for Kronos LLC, the strategic advisory firm that wrote the report.
Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council, is touted as one of the most dominant militia commanders in Libya. He also is a former emir (spiritual leader) of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The LIFG was established in 1995 to create an Islamic emirate inside Libya, where it waged jihad against the government of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
According to the State Department, which designated the LIFG as a terrorist organization, the group officially joined the al-Qaida network in 2007.
Libyan nationals like Belhadj have long played central roles in al-Qaida. "Libyan LIFG member Abu Yahya al-Libi is regarded as core al Qaeda's top Sharia official and many analysts anticipated he would be appointed bin Laden's successor," the report points out. "His brother is Abd al-Wahad al-Qayid, a founding member of the LIFG who was one of the six LIFG leaders who authored the group's corrective studies while imprisoned in Libya."
Libya's proximity to Egypt makes it of strategic importance to al-Qaida. As such, the report not only includes detailed translations from LIFG for policymakers to examine, but also questions for their consideration. Among them is whether the number of al-Qaida linked operatives in Libya has grown since Gaddafi's death and whether the transitional government in Libya has been open to cooperating on U.S. counterterrorism operations.
When asked about Belhadj and any future role for him in the Libyan transitional government, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "They're going to have to make their own decisions as all of these countries who have been in transition recently have had to make -- whether past action, past affiliation meets the smell test within the principles that they've laid out."