Check out this great footage by Al Jazeera of Libyan rebels fighting Gadhafi’s troops. Most significant are the images of what are supposedly armed western troops liasing with the rebels at the 2:10 mark. This may well be the first footage of western “boots on the ground” (sorry to use that clichéd term) at the front lines of the Libyan fight.
Update: The men are apparently ex-British SAS and other “western employees of private security companies” who are indeed helping coordinate air strikes by NATO attack helicopters against Gadhafi’s forces in the vicinity of Misurata, the Guardian newspaper is reporting. This shows that NATO has added private security contractors and attack choppers to its push to oust the crazy colonel.
Special forces veterans are passing details of the locations and movements of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces to the Naples headquarters of Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, Canadian commander of Nato forces involved in the military operations, sources said.
The targets are then verified by spy planes and US Predator drones.
“One piece of human intelligence is not enough”, a source said.
The former soldiers are there with the blessing of Britain, France and other Nato countries, which have supplied them with communications equipment. They are likely to be providing information for the pilots of British and French attack helicopters who are expected to start firing at targets in and around Misrata later this week.
According to the Guardian, the footage was shot last week around the time that reports surfaced claiming that the French and British were sending attack helicopters into the Libyan fray. The clip repeatedly mentions the threat that Gadhafi’s tanks and heavy weapons still pose to the rebels and how much of a difference attack choppers would make in dealing with the tanks. Al Jazeera even notes that the regime has learned to hide its tanks the second NATO jets are heard overhead and suggests the westerners may be laying the groundwork for helo strikes.
As the The Guardian notes, there have been numerous reports of British SAS and even CIA forces on the ground in Libya helping to train rebels and possibly guide in airstrikes for several months. Oh, and don’t forget the SAS team that was briefly detained by the rebels when it choppered-in unannounced in an apparent effort to make contact with the anti-Gadhafi forces.
This comes as NATO has significantly upped the number and intensity of air strikes against Gadhafi’s troops and his command and control facilities in Tripoli. The increased pressure seems to be working, rebel morale is high (as the video claims) and five of Gadhafi’s generals have just abandoned him. We’ll see where this latest development takes the fight in Libya.