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CIA to investigate Libyan rebels

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 Muammar Gaddafi, according to US officials.

world Updated: Mar 31, 2011 23:24 IST
The Washington Post

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 Muammar Gaddafi, according to US 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 disorganised and beleaguered rebel army.

Although the administration has pledged that no US ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that US President Barack Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorise the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, insisted that no decision has been made.

In the face of a new onslaught by government troops, rebel forces fled eastward Wednesday from cities and towns they had captured just days ago. But Gaddafi suffered a political defeat with the defection to Britain of his foreign minister, Moussa Koussa.

Several lawmakers briefed by Clinton, Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they were told that the United States is still trying to put together a full picture of the Libyan rebellion but believes that it does not contain large numbers of radical Islamic militants.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday that his government has made no decision about arming the rebels and that "we want to know about any links with al Qaeda."

The CIA's efforts represent a belated attempt to acquire basic information about rebel forces that had barely surfaced on the radar of US 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.

(In association with The Washington Post. For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com)