Washington, March 31 (DPA) The CIA has deployed covert operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and initiate contacts with rebels seeking to oust leader Muammar Gaddafi, The New York Times reported.
Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper Wednesday 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 US and its allies have been trying to learn more about the rebels and their plans for Libya.
The White House said shortly after the report first emerged that it would not comment on intelligence matters and that no decisions have been made on whether to arm the rebels.
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. Obama has called on Gaddafi to step down and end his 41-year rule.
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.
“We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in,” spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. “We’re assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters.”
NATO formally took command of the international intervention Wednesday. The US initially led the air campaign, which began March 19 after weeks of upheaval in Libya prompted international concerns that the regime would brutally crush the rebels.