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Western Troops On Ground in Libya (updated)

by John Reed on May 31, 2011

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Pandaa May 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm

What an odd existence those people are having. Looks like they are chilling out at a BBQ decorated with heavy weapons

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froggy May 31, 2011 at 9:42 pm

booooooh, they're waiting for their big brothers… gnarc !

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marvel May 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I'm surprised it took them so long to send in attack helicopters. Although I suppose they can are vulnerable to high caliber rounds.

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jim May 31, 2011 at 7:05 pm

nooooo who would of thought? come on let's get up to speed they where there from day one.

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froggy May 31, 2011 at 9:47 pm

boff, was the americans so successful since WW2

you got the biggest defense spendings in world wide, and though defeated by tiny counties…

some say that your fleet represents your fiat dollars, without it, you're going to sink, I mean in the economical world !

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Josh June 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

Define "defeated". We typically win within the first 2 weeks, then we spend billions to "rebuild" the nation we just kicked the $hti out of so insignificant vermin like you won't squeal like little pigs in the UN chamber while you sit on your hands and contribute nothing.

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Chimp June 1, 2011 at 3:24 am

Check out the L1A1. Brings back memories.

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Sanem June 1, 2011 at 5:11 am

ex-SAS = train people to fight for you, then hire them through a private firm so you have full deniability

helicopters will certainly help, they're designed to fight (hidden) armour. but yes, they are more vulnerable, and they too have limited fuel, meaning there will still be gaps the Lybian military can use to counter-attack. which goes to show just how important numbers still are in any fight

rather than spending $50 million on a fighter or chopper (or $100+ million on an F-35, whose super advanced technology would offer little extra help in a situation like this), they'd better buy UAVs at $10 million a piece: they'll stay overhead for up to 20 hours no problem, give central command an immediate and direct confirmation of the target, execute precision attacks, are hard to shoot down (and even than, no need for costly and risky rescue operations), …
for the cost of 5 jets or choppers, you could have 25 of these babies, it's just absurd, and they'll be cheaper to operate at $400/hour instead of $4000+/hour

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zap June 1, 2011 at 9:46 pm

I can’t wait till the Algerians put boots on the ground ( i mean allow “volunteers ” ) in the thousands to help the Libyan government forces , then things will get really messy ,I am sure they started making better preparations for what this will turn into months and months ago . .
I wonder why the west thinks they are the only governments capable of taking sides in a civil war , even after Yugoslavia and Iraq they don’t seem to have learned anything .

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anon June 1, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Wraparound glasses will be the new "olive drab" soon enough. At least TE Lawrence had the decency to look remotely Arab.

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