Weapons shipped by Qatar to rebels in Libya—with US approval—also made their way into the hands of radical Islamic militants during last year's uprisings, reports the New York Times. US officials grew concerned as evidence mounted that Qatar was also delivering weapons to extremists, and officials say President Obama took his concerns about the lack of coordination to the country's emir. Qatar is considered an ally of the United States, said one US official, "but the Islamists they support are not in our interest. ... [They are] more antidemocratic, more hard-line, closer to an extreme version of Islam."
There is no evidence that the US-sanctioned weapons were used in the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans in September. But the incident illuminates the challenges of the US supporting rebel movements, such as that in Syria (where Qatar is also sending arms), without getting too involved. The Times sums up the issue succinctly: "Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations, but also means they may play out in ways that conflict with American interests." A former State Department adviser echoes that sentiment: "When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control."