Thursday, 31 March 2011

CIA sends teams to Libya; US mulls aid for rebels - Obama says US had 'Responsibility' to prevent massacre in Libya

From: The China Post -
Thursday, 31 March 2011 1:03 pm TWN
Report by Adam Goldman and Donna Cassata, AP
CIA sends teams to Libya; US mulls aid for rebels

WASHINGTON -- The CIA has sent small teams of operatives into Libya and helped rescue a crew member of a U.S. fighter jet that crashed, and the White House said Wednesday it was assessing "all types of assistance" for rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

Battlefield setbacks are hardening the U.S. view that the poorly equipped opposition probably is incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

Lawmakers, in private briefings with top Obama administration officials, asked tough questions about the cost of the military operation and expressed concern about the makeup of the rebels.

Members of Congress quoted officials as saying the U.S. military role would be limited, and heard President Barack Obama's director of national intelligence compare the rebel forces to a "pick-up basketball team."

"No decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any groups in Libya," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "We're not ruling it out or ruling it in."

The CIA's precise role in Libya is not clear. Intelligence experts said the CIA would have sent officials to make contact with the opposition and assess the strength and needs of the rebel forces in the event Obama decided to arm them.

An American official and a former U.S. intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, told the AP about the CIA's involvement in Libya after the agency was forced to close its station in Tripoli, the capital.

They said CIA helped safely recover the F-15E Strike Eagle's weapons specialist, who was first picked up by rebels after the crash March 21. The pilot was rescued by Marines.

They suffered only minor injuries, the military has said. Officials have declined to say what mission the F-15 was on at the time it went down. The crew ejected after the aircraft malfunctioned during a mission against a Libyan missile site.

The former intelligence officer said some CIA officers had been staging from the agency's station in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

The New York Times first reported the CIA had sent in groups of CIA operatives and that British operatives were directing airstrikes.

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 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.

Gadhafi's land forces outmatch the opposition by a wide margin and are capable of threatening the civilian resistance, said the senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Obama's director of national intelligence compared the rebel forces to a "pick-up basketball team."

Lawmakers met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, and intelligence head James Clapper

"They're absolutely committed to keeping the U.S. role limited," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "Nobody is making guarantees we'll be out in two weeks."

The top NATO commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, has said he's seen "flickers" of al-Qaida and Hezbollah among the rebels, but no evidence of significant numbers within the political opposition group's leadership.

During the meeting, Clapper, compared the rebel forces to a "pick-up basketball team." He indicated that intelligence has identified a few questionable individuals within the rebel ranks but no significant presence, according to lawmakers.

Lawmakers expressed frustration because administration officials couldn't say when the U.S. operation might end.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Clinton and Gates did not provide much information about the future in Libya.

"Do we arm the rebels? What happens if Gadhafi holds on? What is our next move?" said Smith.

Smith said arming the rebels may make sense, but added, "I think we have to figure out who exactly we would be arming. There are a lot of different rebel groups. I think we need greater intelligence on who is on the ground."

Said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas: "The administration answered as well as they could, given the ambiguity of the situation."

The Pentagon put the cost of the Libyan operation so far at $550 million. Blumenauer said officials estimated the cost could be $40 million a month depending on the length of the operation for the U.S. "It could be higher," he said.

Lawmakers, especially Republicans, are smarting from what they consider a lack of consultation from the administration and Obama's decision not to seek congressional authorization for the use of force.

The briefings — the Senate had a separate session later Wednesday — came 12 days after the no-fly zone began. Obama did speak to congressional leaders the day before the military action began.

"I understand how evil Gadhafi is. I don't understand the unwillingness to come to Congress first," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Republicans, however, don't speak with one voice on the issue.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Obama's 2008 presidential rival, said the president couldn't wait for Congress to take even a few days to debate the use of force "there would have been nothing left to save in Benghazi," the rebels' de-facto capital.

Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee that "the strike part of this and the aviation combat air patrol will be filled largely by the allies" and the U.S. will focus on things such as "intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, refueling ... combat search and rescue."

Still, committee members had reservations.

"It is a mission that I'm concerned as to whether or not its goals are clear. And also I'm a little concerned and believe it's unclear as to who we are supporting in this conflict," said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio.

Said freshman Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., who did four Army combat tours in Iraq: "I think we have so much on the plate right now that we need to do to bring to closure with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan."

An Associated Press-GfK poll found the country split on U.S. involvement in military actions in Libya, with 48 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving.

About three-quarters say it's somewhat likely that U.S. forces will be involved in Libya for the long term. Fifty-five percent say they would favor the United States increasing its military action to remove Gadhafi from power, although only 13 percent favor U.S. ground troops, a step Obama has said he would not take.

The poll was conducted in the days leading up to the president's speech.
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From: Ben Smith -
Monday, 28 March 2011
Obama briefed columnists before speech

Before delivering his defense of the American action in Libya this evening, President Obama surprised a group of top newspaper columnists by dropping by their briefing with national security aide Denis McDonough.

The guests at the meeting included David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, according to a source who asked that his name not appear.

(Obama's argument appears to have worked, at least, on Kristol.)
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Full text of Barack Obama's address on military operations in Libya
Obama Says US Had 'Responsibility' To Prevent Massacre In Libya - Dow Jones report. Click into for the full text of Barack Obama's address on military operations in Libya delivered at the National Defense University, published 1:17AM BST Tuesday, 29 March 2011.
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Some tweets seen on Twitter
The President did a good job of explaining what we're doing in Libya. He may have been lying, but at least they weren't insulting lies.
4:20 PM Mar 28th via web from Manhattan, NY
Retweeted by 7 people
Dave Winer
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If the Libyan rebels take reprisals against the civilian population in the Gaddafi heartland, does the coalition bomb them? Surely, yes.
6:29 PM Mar 28th via web
Retweeted by 4 people
Christopher Meyer
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still a bit too much merci Sarkozy if you ask me #libya
5:53 PM Mar 27th via web
Retweeted by 4 people
Rob Crilly
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NATO agrees to take over command of all aerial operations including air strikes in Libya
8:17 PM Mar 27th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 28 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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The Pentagon says it has not received a single confirmed report of civilian casualties in Libya
10:06 PM Mar 28th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 35 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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The Pentagon says Tomahawk strikes in Libya total 199 to date
10:22 PM Mar 28th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 22 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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US President Obama says Nato will take charge of Libyan operations on Wednesday
2:16 AM Mar 29th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 16 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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AFP: NATO delays its planned takeover of military command in Libya by 24 hours to 06:00 GMT on Thursday.
2:29 PM Mar 29th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 31 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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U.S. Nato Commander: Intelligence shows "flickers" of Al Qaeda presence in Libyan opposition.
4:51 PM Mar 29th via SkyNews Alerts - Breaking
Retweeted by 47 people
Sky News Newsdesk
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Further Reading

London Conference on Libya: Chair's statement
Click into for London Conference on Libya: Chair's statement Tuesday, 29 March 2011.
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Who are Libya's rebels?
From: BBC News Online -
28 March 2011 Last updated at 21:29
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UK backs role for rebel Libyans
From: The Scotsman -
Published Date: 29 March 2011, By DAVID MADDOX. Excerpt:
Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday issued a joint statement supporting the interim National Transitional Council.

The statement came as a Downing Street spokesman confirmed diplomats were on the ground in Libya and had made contact with the council.
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Obama and Libya: The professor’s war
From: The Washington Post -
Published date: Thursday, 24 March 2011, 8:21 PM, By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER. Excerpt:
President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It’s war as designed by an Ivy League professor.
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The most troubling reports about the Libyan rebels
The opposition includes former Gadhafi loyalists and, potentially, Islamists
From: The Salon War Room -
Published date: Friday, 25 March 2011; 09:01 ET, By JUSTIN ELLIOTT. Excerpt:
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the composition of the Libyan rebels that the U.S. and its allies are now supporting in their fight against Moammar Gadhafi. What we do know is that it is a motley group including both former regime figures as well as longtime dissidents. (The Atlantic Wire has a good rundown of the leadership of the rebels here.)

While the Obama administration has insisted that the U.S. mission does not go beyond protecting civilians, it is clear we are supporting the rebel side in Libya's civil war. So it's important to be clear-eyed about who the rebels are. And the reports so far are not all positive.
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Gaddafi regime fed names of jihadists to the CIA and to Britain
Alexi Mostrous From: The Times -
Published date: 22 March 2011 8:45AM. Excerpt:
COLONEL Muammar Gaddafi's regime secretly provided information to Britain and the US on Islamic extremists in the east of Libya, according to leaked diplomatic cables and intelligence sources.

The names of hundreds of suspects were passed to the CIA and British intelligence.

“There was a strong, shared concern between Gaddafi and the US and UK Governments about radical Sunni jihadist terrorists, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG),” Paul Pillar, a CIA veteran who negotiated with Libya over its nuclear program, told The Times.

Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks paint eastern Libya as a fertile ground for radical extremism. One source told US officials in 2008 that for young men from Derna, a city east of Benghazi, “resistance against coalition forces in Iraq was an important act of 'jihad' and a last act of defiance against the Gaddafi regime”.
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Meet the Libyan Rebels the West Is Supporting
From The Atlantic Wire
Published date: Thursday, 24 March 2011, By URI FRIEDMAN
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Operation Ellamy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Operation ELLAMY[6] is the codename for the United Kingdom participation in the 2011 military intervention in Libya.[7] The operation is part of an international coalition aimed at enforcing a Libyan no-fly zone in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which stipulated that "all necessary measures" shall be taken to protect civilians.[8] UK sorties are under the operational command of the United States.[9] The coalition operation is designated by the U.S. as Operation Odyssey Dawn.[10][11] The Canadian participation is Operation MOBILE[12] and the French participation is Opération Harmattan.[13]

The no-fly zone was proposed during the 2011 Libyan uprising to prevent government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi from carrying out air attacks on rebel forces. Several countries prepared to take immediate military action at a conference in Paris on 19 March, 2011.[14]
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State Department: Arming Libyan opposition would be 'illegal'
From" The Cable -
Published date: Tuesday, 08 March 2011; 11:29 AM

The State Department believes that supplying any arms to the Libyan opposition to support its struggle against Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi would be illegal at the current time.

"It's very simple. In the U.N. Security Council resolution passed on Libya, there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it's a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday.

Crowley denied reports that the United States had asked Saudi Arabia to provide weapons to the Libyan opposition, and also denied that the United States would arm opposition groups absent explicit international authorization.

Pressed by reporters to clarify whether the Obama administration had any plans to give arms to any of the rebel groups in Libya, Crowley said no.

"It would be illegal for the United States to do that," he said. "It's not a legal option."

Crowley's blanket statement seemed to go further than comments on Monday by White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said, "On the issue of … arming, providing weapons, it is one of the range of options that is being considered."

Crowley maintained that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, which imposed international sanctions on Libya that included an arms embargo, applied to both the Qaddafi regime and the rebel groups.

"It's not on the government of Libya: It's on Libya," he said.

Britain and France are drafting a new Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone over Libya. The United States still might support such a resolution, but U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder argued on Monday that a no-fly zone wouldn't likely do much to protect Libyan civilians anyway.

The United States and its international partners have been reaching out to the Libyan opposition, with some mixed results, but the State Department still has not officially withdrawn its recognition of the Qaddafi regime despite President Barack Obama's public call for him to step down.

"As we've said, we think that the Qaddafi regime, having turned its weapons on its people, has lost its legitimacy," Crowley noted. "But as I said last week, there are also legal issues involved in recognizing or de-recognizing governments."

UPDATE: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) issued a statement Tuesday evening refuting Crowley's claim that arming the Libyan opposition is "illegal" under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970:
Earlier today, the spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State said that, because of the arms embargo imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1970, it would be ‘illegal' for the United States or any other country to provide military assistance to the opposition forces fighting for their survival against a brutal dictatorship in Libya. In fact, the text of the UN resolution does not impose an arms embargo on ‘Libya,' but rather on the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,' which is the self-proclaimed name of Qaddafi's regime. We believe this language should be construed narrowly in order to hold open the possibility of providing military aid to the opposition, which presumably does not consider itself part of the ‘Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.'

The President has consistently and correctly said that ‘all options are on the table' in Libya. If the State Department's statement today is correct, however, it means one of the most effective options to help the Libyan people has been taken off the table. We urge the Administration to clarify its position on this important issue.

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