WASHINGTON DC: The United States and Britain have inserted covert intelligence agents into Libya to make contact with rebels and to gather data to guide coalition air strikes, a report said Wednesday.
The White House refused to comment on the apparent shadow war in Libya, and also declined to discuss another report that President Barack Obama had signed a secret order allowing Central Intelligence Agency operations in the country.
A senior US official did, however, warmly welcome the defection to Britain of Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa, interpreting his flight as a sign that Moamer Kadhafi’s inner circle was beginning to crumble under massive pressure.
The New York Times said the CIA had inserted clandestine agents into Libya to gather data for airstrikes and establish links with rebels, who Wednesday lost a swathe of captured territory to Kadhafi loyalists.
Obama has insisted no American ground troops will be deployed in the bid to shield civilians in Libya. But the Times said small groups of American covert agents had been conducting missions inside Libya for several weeks.
It also cited current and former British officials as saying dozens of British special forces and MI6 secret intelligence service agents were also on the ground in Libya, collecting data on government forces and weaponry.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to confirm or deny the reports, citing “common practice” not to comment on intelligence matters.
“I will reiterate what the president said yesterday — no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya. We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in,” said Carney.