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Vol. 75/No. 15      April 18, 2011

CIA squads on ground
spot targets in Libya
(front page)
Washington has placed special units of CIA operatives on the ground in Libya as the imperialist powers keep up their airstrikes, unleashed in mid-March, against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

The conflict is “heading for a long stalemate from which Britain, France, and the US will find it hard to extract themselves,” noted the Financial Times.

With NATO taking over command of the air assaults from the U.S. Africa Command, Washington announced it was halting its combat missions as of April 2, but continued to bombard the country for the next two days after NATO requested help due to “poor weather conditions.” During NATO’s first four days running the operation, warplanes flew 547 sorties and 218 strike sorties, continuing what U.S. forces had spearheaded over the previous two weeks.

While maintaining air surveillance and aerial refueling operations, U.S. combat aircraft, including AC-130s and A-10 ground-attack planes, will also be on “standby”—available for airstrikes upon NATO’s request, or if U.S. officials decide NATO is unable to effectively conduct these assaults without them.

Although President Barack Obama claims no U.S. ground troops will be deployed in Libya, the president several weeks ago signed “a secret finding” authorizing CIA operatives to pinpoint bombing targets and provide support to opposition forces in the civil war.

Dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are carrying out similar operations inside Libya. “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,” reported the New York Times.

The White House has said arming the opposition is under consideration and the president has not “ruled it in or out.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates in testimony before the House Armed Services committee said that besides arms the rebel forces will need training with “advisers on the ground.” He said that “somebody else should do that” besides the U.S. government. The secret finding signed by Obama authorizes the CIA to provide arms to rebel forces, according to U.S. officials cited in the Washington Post.

Under NATO’s command are 25 warships stationed off the coast of Libya, including two aircraft carriers—Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Rome’s Garibaldi. On these ships and bases in Europe are more than 220 aircraft available for operations in Libyan airspace around-the-clock, under the direction of NATO commander Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard from Canada.

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee March 31, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said the transition to NATO gives the U.S. government “the best of both worlds.” Washington is able to play “a less front-line role in terms of the operational military activities,” he said, but “can conduct effective military activities,” since U.S. troops remain under the command of U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, NATO’s top commander.  
Stalemate in civil war
At a congressional hearing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen presented a bleak assessment of the rebels’ capabilities and the limited impact of the imperialist bombing. He said only about 1,000 rebels have military training and that Gadhafi’s tanks and armored vehicles outnumber the opposition’s by 10 to 1. The daily airstrikes, according to Mullen, have reduced the Libyan government’s forces by 25 percent or less.

Targeting Gadhafi’s troops is becoming “a real challenge,” Mullen said, because in recent days they “have started to look like, dress like, drive in vehicles like, the opposition.” A NATO airstrike April 1 killed at least 10 rebel fighters on the outskirts of Brega, in eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, food prices in Libya are rising sharply. According to the United Nations World Food Program, in the last few weeks the price of flour has more than doubled, rice increased by 88 percent, and bread by more than 110 percent.
Related articles:
Communists in Australia condemn Libya airstrikes
Antigovernment protests challenge Syrian regime  
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