There may not be boots on the ground in Libya – yet – but the New York Times is convinced that CIA operatives are in place, and have been for weeks:
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.
Once you’ve accepted the premise of US military involvement – excuse me, “NATO” military involvement in Libya – this makes a kind of sense. Al Qaeda is swirling in the mix of loosely organized rebels, and having committed ourselves to god-knows-what, we have to find out who’s who in the Libyan zoo. On the off chance that the whole affair doesn’t go completely pear-shaped in the next weeks and months, we’ll have to know what the emergent power/challenge dialectic will be in order to help steer it in a positive direction.
Or give it the old Princeton try, anyway.
But those who have never traveled to the Middle East and spoken to the locals will have difficulty understanding the passionate depth of fear and loathing that is attached to the boys from Langley. In a world where the wildest conspiracy theories spread like unchallenged wildfire among the “men in the street,” the CIA – alongside their Mossad puppet-masters – are held responsible for every class of evil that afflicts the Arab world. Which, given the state of Araby, is quite a load to shoulder.
I hope those guys are getting hazardous duty pay.