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Now that we're already backing the Libyan rebels and have gone to war to assist them against Qaddafi's troops, President Obama has decided it's time to figure out who these rebels are that we're defending with our military and money. Great thinking, Mr. President. We sure wouldn't rush to war without having all the facts first. Wait a second. That phrase "rush to war" sounds vaguely familiar...hmmm. Must be my imagination, right Democrats ?
In his effort to reverse the positions of the cart and the horse, our Prez has sent in the CIA:
The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials.
The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army.
Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.
Um, Obama's "secret finding" isn't much of a secret when "officials" blab it to reporters. The administration knows Qaddafi has a superior military and superior firepower to the rebels even without his airforce and heavy weapons. The rebels are in retreat. The only thing propping them up is the airstrikes of the America-led coalition.
"Our volunteer forces in the front have only got light weapons and are facing a very large military might,” said a rebel spokesman, Col. Ahmad Bani. The largely untrained and poorly organized force lacks anti-tank and other heavy weapons.
Bani called on NATO forces to intervene more forcefully, although a U.S. military official said coalition airstrikes, including attacks by U.S. AC-130 gunships, had continued apace in combat areas along the Libyan coast, with 32 U.S. and 23 coalition airstrikes in the 12-hour period through midday in Libya.
Administration officials said U.S. participation in the strikes would subside rapidly once NATO formally takes overall command this week of all aspects of the operation.
This idea of American participation subsiding once NATO takes over has been bugging me for awhile now too. NATO is...largely the United States from a military standpoint. The commander of NATO is also an American. It sounds like we're going to be handing control of operations over from the United States...to the United States. That strikes me as a distinction without much of a difference.
How many of the rebels are radical Islamic militants is unknown, and that's what the CIA is tasked with finding out. The CIA's mission may go far beyond that, however. They may also be guiding the rebel forces:
The CIA’s efforts represent a belated attempt to acquire basic information about rebel forces that had barely surfaced on the radar of U.S. spy agencies before the uprisings in North Africa.
Among the CIA’s tasks is to assess whether rebel leaders could be reliable partners if the administration opts to begin funneling in money or arms.
Under law, the CIA requires special permission from the president to carry out activities designed to influence foreign events. A finding establishes a framework of legal authorities for specific covert activities, and in some cases for future actions that can be taken only after specific permission is given.
Such operations are fraught with risks. The CIA’s history is replete with efforts that backfired against U.S. interests in unexpected ways. In perhaps the most fateful example, the CIA’s backing of Islamic fighters in Afghanistan succeeded in driving out the Soviets in the 1980s, but it also presaged the emergence of militant groups, including al-Qaeda, that the United States is now struggling to contain.
Giving the CIA an expanded role in Libya would enable the administration to bridge the gap between the restrictions on coalition airstrikes and Obama’s stated goal of bringing Gaddafi’s four-decade rule to an end.
The CIA’s Special Activities Division includes paramilitary operatives who could help guide rebel operations as well as allied airstrikes.
There is a very disturbing report about the rebels which, if true, does not bode well for coalition forces:
During "In the Arena," Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer for The New Yorker reporting from Benghazi, Libya, tells Eliot Spitzer that the number of opposition fighters on the front lines are fewer than anyone would think and that they are poorly armed and badly trained. Anderson says, " Effective number of fighting men, well under 1,000. Actual soldiers, who are now in the fight, possibly in the very low hundreds on the opposition side."
That ain't much of a rebel force for us to support, but never fear, "help" for the rebels may be on the way:
As the battle for the future of Libya continues, the excitement is almost palpable among Libyan-born al Qaeda fighters and other Arabs hunkered down in Pakistan's remote and lawless tribal area. According to Afghan Taliban sources close to Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, some of the 200 or so Libyans operating near the Afghan border may be on their way home to steer the anti-Gaddafi revolution in a more Islamist direction.
Since the anti-Gaddafi revolution began last month, al Qaeda—especially Libyan-born affiliates—have viewed the fighting as an opportunity to spread their radical Islamist ideology. Indeed, as one Afghan Taliban operative who helps facilitate the movement of al Qaeda militants between the tribal area and Pakistani cities told The Daily Beast earlier this month: "This rebellion is the fresh breeze they've been waiting years for. They realize that if they don't use this opportunity, it could be the end of their chances to turn Libya toward a real Islamic state, as Afghanistan once was."
Yikes. Could we actually be facing the prospect of an American President supporting Al-Qaedan Islamist rebels in a fight against Qaddafi's military ? Talk about your no-win situation. Maybe we should cut an arms-for-Al Qaeda deal with the Libyan rebels. They give us a terrorist, we give them a few weapons.