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NATO Troops Already in Libya?

by John Reed on March 3, 2011

Here’s something interesting. Early in the week we heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying a no-fly zone over Libya was being actively considered. Her comments were followed by CNO Adm. Gary Roughead said the Navy is ready to help enforce a no-fly zone should the order be given. Then yesterday, numerous reports came out saying the White House is trying to downplay the potential of a military intervention in Libya. Defense Secretary Robert Gates even warned against “loose talk” on the matter.

While he urged caution, Gates said all options are still on the table. Now, Janes is reporting that a NATO team might be in Libya investigating the feasibility of setting up a no-fly zone:

A NATO team mostly comprising US personnel has been deployed to eastern Libya to determine whether a no-fly zone could be imposed in response to the crackdown by Colonel Moammar Ghadaffi against reform-minded protestors, Jane’s understands from international sources.

Experts in airlift and command-and-control operations based at NATO headquarters in Brussels were dispatched on 27 February, to search for possible radar sites to aid the enforcement of any possible no-fly zone over Libyan airspace and to liaise with officers from Libyan military units that have abandoned the 41-year-old regime, the source told Jane’s on 28 February.

The Pentagon, however, denies that any U.S. forces are on the ground and a Libyan opposition source says he’s seen no western troops, according to the article.

One Libyan opposition supporter told Jane’s on 28 February that he had yet to see any Western military officials in Benghazi: the eastern city that has become the epicentre of the rebellion.

Pentagon spokesman David Lapan told Jane’s on 1 March that “no US forces had deployed to Libya”.

There could very well be a team or teams of special ops folks on the ground doing everything from quietly training the opposition to collecting all sorts of intel. If so, I promise you they’re keeping extremely low profiles, for now.

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