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CIA Feelers in Libya; Rebels Lose Lots of Ground

Gadhafi troops reclaim key oil port as rebels plea for new NATO airstrikes


Emotions strained as Libyan rebels struggle (MSNBC, March 30, 2011) — Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent interviews a Libyan rebel about the challenges his fellow fighters are facing. (05:08)

Reuters, The Associated Press, and NBC News via
March 30, 2011

AJDABIYA, Libya — As word surfaced Wednesday that President Barack Obama had authorized CIA operations in Libya and that the agency was using clandestine operatives to gather intel for airstrikes, the rebels lost ground and pleaded for heavier bombardment of Moammar Gadhafi’s troops.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding,” within the last two or three weeks, four government sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that CIA operatives have been collecting intelligence and making contacts with rebels. The agents’ precise role was unclear.

The CIA sent small teams of operatives into Libya after the agency’s station in the capital was forced to close, and CIA officers assisted in the rescue of one of the two crew members of an F-15E Strike Eagle that crashed, an American official and a former U.S. intelligence officer told The Associated Press on Wednesday. …

Because U.S. and allied intelligence agencies still have many questions about the identities and leadership of anti-Gadhafi forces, any covert U.S. activities are likely to proceed cautiously until more information about the rebels can be collected and analyzed, officials said. …

Obama said in a national address Monday night that U.S. troops would not be used on the ground in Libya. The statement allowed for wiggle room as the president explores options in case he decides to use covert action to ship arms to the rebels and train them. That would require a presidential finding.

In that event, the CIA would take the lead, as it has done in the past such as in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. In those covert action programs, CIA officers along with special operation forces were sent in, providing arms to opposition forces to help fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. …

In other developments Wednesday …

  • Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa defected upon flying into London. Koussa was one of Gadhafi’s key officials and the architect of a dramatic shift in Libya’s foreign policy that brought the country back to the international community after years of sanctions. …
  • The Obama administration estimates U.S. military operations in Libya have cost about $550 million so far and will cost about $40 million a month going forward …

Full story


Related reports on this site

A missile drops on the tightly-guarded residence of Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011. NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital earlier in the afternoon. (Photo credit: Mahmud Turkia / AFP — Getty Images)

Barack Obama’s Libya Speech (March 28, 2011)

Is Libya Military Action Constitutional? (March 22, 2011)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 30, 2010

Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties

One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Lance Cpl. Rick J. Centanni, 19, Yorba Linda, Calif., died March 24, 2010 supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

When Centanni was in high school, he had a sticker on his football helmet that was placed there to remember a former player who had died in Iraq. Army Pfc. Joel Brattain was killed in 2004, and Centanni and other members of Esperanza High’s Aztecs football team wore the stickers the season after he died. They did it to honor him.

Six years later, Centanni’s death was announced over the intercom at the Anaheim, Calif., high school, where he graduated in 2008.

“With the volunteer military, I don’t think the war has the same effect on young people today — until something like this happens,” said Jim Pendleton, an English teacher and assistant football coach for the Aztecs.

“It didn’t surprise me when he went into the military because it was the ultimate expression of teamwork and camaraderie,” his coach told the Los Angeles Times.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — March 30, 2009

Trillion-Dollar Wars Since 9/11


GAO: Iraq pullout ‘massive and expensive’ (NBC Nightly News, March 25, 2009) — A report by the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. pullout from Iraq will be a massive and expensive effort. NBC’s Steve Wende on the cost of packing people and equipment. (02:01)

Two years ago today, on March 30, 2009, I reported that Pentagon spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to fight terrorism elsewhere had reached $685.7 billion since 2001, according to the Government Accountability Office. In a letter to Congress dated March 30, 2009, the GAO said the Iraq war accounted for $533.5 billion in Defense Department spending obligations through December 2008, while spending on operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and the Philippines totaled $124.1 billion, with the remaining $28.1 billion spent on operations to defend the U.S. mainland.

3 Responses to “(Some) Boots on the Ground in Libya”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » U.S. Troops to Fight in Libya? Says:

    […] (Some) Boots on the Ground in Libya (March 30, 2011) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Gadhafi Kin Killed in Airstrike Says:

    […] (Some) Boots on the Ground in Libya (March 30, 2011) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Battle for Tripoli Has Begun Says:

    […] (Some) Boots on the Ground in Libya (March 30, 2011) […]

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