CIA agents operating covertly in Libya

The CIA has deployed covert operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and initiate contacts with rebels seeking to oust leader Moamer Gaddafi, dpa cited The New York Times as reporting Wednesday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper reported online that small groups of CIA agents have been in Libya for several weeks seeking to blunt the effectiveness of Gaddafi's military. The United States and its allies have been trying to learn more about the rebels and their plans for Libya.

US President Barack Obama has said that US ground troops would not be involved in the ongoing military campaign by the international coalition to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone under a UN mandate.

The New York Times reported that British intelligence officers are also deployed inside Libya to direct airstrikes.

The reports come as the US and other countries in NATO debate whether to arm the rebels, who have suffered a series of setbacks in recent days under attacks from Gaddafi's better equipped forces. Obama said he has not ruled out providing weapons to the rebels.

NATO formally took command of the international intervention on Wednesday. The US initially led the air campaign, which began on March 19 after weeks of upheaval in Libya prompted concerns of a violent regime crackdown.

[Source: Trend, Baku, 31Mar11]

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