Before ISIS made its presence known in Libya, there was Al-Qaeda (a Libyan branch called Ansar Al-Sharia). They quickly established themselves as the leading militia force amongst the Islamic extremists during the armed insurrection against Qaddafi. Much of their arsenal was either plundered from the regime’s weapons depots, or supplied by the U.S. through Qatar.
After Qaddafi was killed, the CIA was concerned that their weapons would end up “in the wrong hands,” so as part of operation “Zero Footprint” they shipped weapons from Libya to Turkey where they would end up in the Syrian theatre. Ansar Al-Sharia was complicit, provided the weapons went to their AlQaeda brethren in Syria.
It quickly became clear that this was not the case. Once the weapons got to Syria many of them ended up in the hands of their rivals, ISIS. As a matter of fact, only five days before the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, a fight broke out between ISIS and AlQaeda in the Turkish port of Iskenderson, over 400 tons of weapons aboard a Libyan-flagged ship called Al Entisar. Ansar Al-Sharia’s perceived betrayal by the CIA is what may have led to Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ death.