Al-Jazeera Finds Western “Troops” On The Ground In Libya

An al-Jazeera film crew came up with the first direct evidence of Western military advisers on the ground in rebel-controlled Libya:

Armed westerners have been filmed on the front line with rebels near Misrata in the first apparent confirmation that foreign special forces are playing an active role in the Libyan conflict.

A group of six westerners are clearly visible in a report by al-Jazeera from Dafniya, described as the westernmost point of the rebel lines west of the town of Misrata. Five of them were armed and wearing sand-coloured clothes, peaked caps, and cotton Arab scarves.

The sixth, apparently the most senior of the group, was carrying no visible weapon and wore a pink, short-sleeve shirt. He may be an intelligence officer. The group is seen talking to rebels and then quickly leaving on being spotted by the television crew.

The footage emerged as South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, arrived in Tripoli in an attempt to broker a ceasefire. He described reports that he would ask Muammar Gaddafi to step down as “misleading”, and said he would instead focus on humanitarian measures and ways to implement a plan concocted by the African Union for Libya make a transition to democratic rule but not seek Gaddafi’s exile.

The westerners were seen by al-Jazeera on rebel lines late last week, days before British and French attack helicopters are due to join the Nato campaign. They are likely to be deployed on the outskirts of Misrata, from where pro-Gaddafi forces continue to shell rebel positions to the east.

There have been numerous reports in the British press that SAS soldiers are acting as spotters in Libya to help Nato warplanes target pro-Gaddafi forces. In March, six special forces soldiers and two MI6 officers were detained by rebel fighters when they landed on an abortive mission to meet rebel leaders in Benghazi, in an embarrassing episode for the SAS.

The group was withdrawn soon afterwards and a new “liaison team” sent in its place. Asked for comment on Monday, a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “We don’t have any forces out there.”

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, really. In addition to the spotters noted above, we’ve also heard reports of CIA teams being sent into the country to at least gather intelligence on the rebels. What seems different about this report, though, is that these Westerners seem to be providing direct tactical support to the rebels, if not fighting alongside them. Whether that’s wise is, of course, a question that nobody seems to be bothering to ask.

Here’s the al-Jazeera video:

FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Presumably, they aren’t wearing boots.

  2. I believe we established that the CIA teams would be wearing stylish loafers from Gucci.

    See? No boots on the ground

  3. TG Chicago says:

    I’m told that they’re wearing top-secret Hover-boots, which keep them 1/4″ above the ground’s surface at all times.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    If a CIA presence is “boots on the ground,” then we have “boots on the ground” in France, the UK, Canada . . .

    Al-Jazeera also reports that 8 senior officers including a number of generals have defected along with 100 or so others and are now co-operating with Italian (presumably NATO too) intelligence.

    That same blog reports fighting in Bani Waleed (Bani Waled on Google Maps.) Take a look at its location.

    Gaddafi is suing for peace, trying desperately for a ceasefire. The rebels reject all such initiatives.

    Which makes pretty clear who is winning.

  5. Southern Hoosier says:

    Tourists?

    If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Libya.

  6. Southern Hoosier says:

    michael reynolds says: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 12:29

    Al-Jazeera also reports that 8 senior officers including a number of generals have defected along with 100 or so others and are now co-operating with Italian (presumably NATO too) intelligence.

    That same blog reports fighting in Bani Waleed (Bani Waled on Google Maps.) Take a look at its location.

    Gaddafi is suing for peace, trying desperately for a ceasefire. The rebels reject all such initiatives.

    Which makes pretty clear who is winning.

    If you accept Al-Jazeera as a creditable source.

  7. CB says:

    right or wrong, i always considered AJ comparable to FOX or any of its other cable spawns. you have to be aware of its angle, and recognize the lens it sees the world through. if you do that, it can be at the very least a useful tool for finding another perspective.

    as for libya, one can only hope the talk of a ceasefire is real. not only do i want US and european warplanes back home, but i want to see a genuine effort at rebuilding and reconciliation. whether this is possible…

  8. Southern Hoosier says:

    @CB

    as for libya, one can only hope the talk of a ceasefire is real. not only do i want US and european warplanes back home, but i want to see a genuine effort at rebuilding and reconciliation. whether this is possible…

    I agree. We don’t need another failed state or a radical Muslim one.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    If you accept Al-Jazeera as a creditable source.

    Yeah, it’s fake. They also faked interviews with the officers involved, and quotes from the Italians.

  10. CB says:

    haha nice try SH, no cigar.

    what troubles me is the rebels apparent need for retribution after 40 years of repression and brutality. its understandable, but i worry that we are merely seeing the beginning of a much more brutal campaign.

  11. Southern Hoosier says:

    CB says:
    Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 18:26

    haha nice try SH, no cigar.

    Since you disagree with me, you must think we need more failed states and more radical Islamic states.

  12. CB says:

    lol of course i dont want a failed and/or rogue state, im just not taking your bait. cheers.

  13. Southern Hoosier says:

    @CB
    Don’t responded to this I don’t want you to think I am baiting you

    Weird. You, agree with a person and they think you are baiting them. Talk about paranoid.