By Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, March 30, 2011
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.
While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.
In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.
American officials hope that similar information gathered by American intelligence officers — including the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots and the clusters of government troops inside towns — might help weaken Libya’s military enough to encourage defections within its ranks.
There will be those who consider the CIA to be "putting boots on the ground" in a conflict whose permitting U.N. resolution forbids such a move....and perhaps this is another of those cases in which it is easier to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.
With the defection of the Foreign Affairs Minister from the Libyan dictator's "government" as yesterday's set-back for the dictator, there is nevertheless mounting evidence that the rebels are being repelled by forces loyal to the dictator.
Clearly the cunning, brutal and relentless dictator will not go easily, and there a many in his country who do not support a move to provide exile for him in another country. Given the crimes against their loved ones, these people want the Libyan dictator to be tried for war crimes, or for crimes against humanity, and thereby prevent a quiet departure to a comfortable exile. We support their legitimate aspirations, but doubt the world community will go that far. It would appear that the removal of the Libyan dictator would faciliate most of the ambitions of those inside and outside Libya.