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CIA, British Special Forces Swarm Through Libya

By David Dayen

March 31, 2011 "
FDL" - -  This is an appropriately acerbic post from Matt Yglesias that can serve as a catch-up on events in Libya for those who missed it yesterday:
Today’s New York Times features Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt reporting that America’s no boots on the ground humanitarian intervention in Libya features ground-based CIA agents (presumably wearing tennis shoes) coordinating with Libyan rebels so as to better be able to assist them with tactical air support. Chris Adams for McClatchy also has a story out headlined “Libyan rebel leader spent much of past 20 years in suburban Virginia”, which is presumably because he really liked the Tyson’s Corner mall and has nothing to do with the location of the CIA or the Pentagon.

Reuters also had it that Obama had signed a secret order to provide the Libyan rebels with weapons, but that presumably meant humanitarian weapons rather than the kind you use to kill enemy soldiers and resolve post-revolutionary political disputes with. The administration, however, denies that this decision has been made. Meanwhile, the Gaddafist state continues to disintegrate as foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected to the United Kingdom but Gaddafi’s troops made advances on the ground.

You can read more about the clandestine assistance from the New York Times or the LA Times or the National Journal. You’ll find that, in addition to CIA operatives, “dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya.” They wear boots. And they’re on the ground.

I will say that, in that blogger call with deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, he stated firmly, in response to my question, that one reason you cannot say that the coalition has become the air force for the Libyan opposition is that we weren’t coordinating anything on the ground with them. That was two days ago, and it’s entirely possible, I suppose, that Rhodes was kept in the dark about the actual coordination on the ground between the rebels and the CIA. It’s just not very likely that national security reporters know more than the deputy national security advisor. There’s also this from the LAT:

In Libya, the U.S. has been leading an international effort to protect civilians by enforcing a no-fly zone and bombing Libya’s military forces, but the coalition says it has not been coordinating with the rebels seeking to oust Kadafi’s government. Rebel leaders, however, have said they are in contact with allied military representatives in Europe to help commanders identify targets for the air assault.

So I’m going to chalk that up to a point-blank lie. And a pretty obvious one; the fact that three days ago, nine loud explosions rocked Sirte, a city held by pro-Gadhafi forces, right as the rebels were seeking to breach the walls and take it over speaks to the close coordination here.

And yet, it hasn’t been enough. The CIA presence hasn’t been enough. The close air support, including attack helicopters, hasn’t been enough. The defection of key officials hasn’t been enough. There’s obviously a ways to go here, but the trajectory is not what the coalition would hope. And before too long, someone in one of these planning rooms is going to say that the rebels need more firepower. And someone else will say that they need trainers to whip their ragtag army into shape. And maybe some Special Forces guys, some actual fighters, ringers if you will. And maybe a battalion. But just one battalion. After all, Gadhafi’s a murderous despot…

Turd sandwich, indeed.



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