News / Africa

CIA Secretly at Work Inside Libya

A Libyan rebel scans the field as they wait for the signal to advance at an intersection just outside Brega, April 3, 2011
A Libyan rebel scans the field as they wait for the signal to advance at an intersection just outside Brega, April 3, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Published reports say CIA officers are at work inside Libya.  But just what they are doing is not clear and, in keeping with practice, the CIA would not comment on the reports.  The Obama administration has said it has not yet decided whether to arm the Libyan rebels.  But, there is much the CIA may be doing in Libya short of that.

Analysts say it should come of no surprise that the CIA is already at work in Libya.  Reva Bhalla, Middle East analyst for the private intelligence firm, Stratfor, says gathering intelligence is the most basic function of the CIA.

"Obviously when you have a military campaign like this under way you’re going to need people on the ground, painting [identifying] targets for air strikes, [and] not only on the military aspect but just in trying to figure out just who is the opposition - who are they actually dealing with, are there any viable leaders who show the potential for unifying this very fractious country," said Bhalla.

Beyond gathering intelligence

According to published accounts, an unknown number of CIA officers, along with British intelligence and special forces counterparts, are working with the Libyan rebels.  The CIA has its own paramilitary component, known as the Special Activities Division.  But what the CIA might be doing in Libya beyond just gathering intelligence is unclear.

By all accounts, the Libyan rebels are poorly trained and equipped.  They made some advances, but have been pushed back by Libyan army counterattacks. The Obama administration has said it has not yet decided to arm the Libyan rebels, but has said firmly it will not send in U.S. ground troops, preferring to stick with the enforcement of the no-fly zone.

Offering what he says are personal views, former senior CIA officer Emile Nakhleh says it is likely the CIA is providing some form of non-lethal assistance to the rebels, especially in terms of communications and organization.

"They probably would provide them with communications gear, from the most basic walkie-talkies to a bit more advanced cellular telephones," said Nakhleh. "Two, they might perhaps help train them in how to attack or how to anticipate Gadhafi’s attacks.  I mean, the fact is, they’re just a bunch of ragtag enthusiastic opposition people to the regime but have no idea even of how to organize."

Nakhleh believes, however, that there is nothing stopping CIA officers from training the rebels on captured weapons.

"We would need to train them how to use the weapons they have already captured from the Gadhafi forces. Some of them have captured some of these rockets and they don’t know how to fire them.  So we can, I think, do all kinds of things before, even way below, the level of arming them with U.S. arms," said the former CIA officer.

But many analysts believe that for the rebels to turn the tide back in their favor, they will need sophisticated weapons, such as those the U.S. provided to Afghan rebels fighting Soviet occupation in the 1980s - and specialized training on how to use them.

Secret authorization

According to published accounts quoting Obama administration sources, President Barack Obama signed a secret authorization, known as a presidential “finding,” authorizing possible future training and arming of the rebels.

But such a program carries great risks.  In 1961, a CIA-trained force made an unsuccessful attempt to land at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and topple Fidel Castro.  It was a humiliation for the then-new president, John F. Kennedy.

In the 1980s, the CIA, in concert with Pakistan, armed and trained anti-Soviet Afghan rebels. The rebels, known as mujahedin, drove the Soviet army out, but many of their members went on to form the nucleus of the Taliban and al-Qaida. And many of the sophisticated weapons the mujahedin received, such as shoulder-held surface-to-air missiles, were unaccounted for at war’s end.

Reva Bhalla says the governments involved in the anti-Gadhafi coalition are worried about both a kind of Bay of Pigs in the desert, where the rebels are defeated, and possible infiltration of the rebels by radical Islamists.

"I think that’s the biggest question that’s on the minds of many of these governments because it just isn’t clear," said Bhalla.  "This is not a very sophisticated or militarily capable opposition force.  And then there’s the concern of whether some of the more Islamist militant types are mixed in within this opposition.  And if they’re going to be moved to arm and supply these rebels, is that something that is going to have serious blowback down the line.

What the CIA actually ends up doing in Libya may never be publicly known.  But, as former CIA officers have pointed out, the larger an operation, the more difficult it is to keep it secret.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid