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CIA's Presence In Libya Gives Little Relief As Rebels Flee Eastward

Kevin Douglas Grant |
March 31, 2011 | 9:15 a.m. PDT

Executive Editor

While the CIA scrambles to beef up its intelligence in Libya, Moammar Gaddafi's loyalists are flexing their military muscle to the point that the rebellion looks ready to break.

"Dispirited" rebels have been pushed out of key eastern cities in mass retreat despite NATO bombing campaigns designed to bolster them.  Britain's Daily Mail called it a "Mad Max-style retreat": 

"Libyan rebel forces retreated in disarray yesterday as the battle in the east swung dramatically in favour of Colonel Gaddafi.  The oil town of Brega changed hands for the sixth time in six weeks, as regime troops backed by heavy artillery won back most of the ground they had lost in recent days."

Rebel fighters have lost more than 100 miles of territory in the last 48 hours or so, hampered by inferior weaponry and supplies (not to mention a general lack of training).  CBS News reports:

"Outgunned and often outflanked in the field, they lack any sort of military strategy or leadership. They are eager to take ground, but are quick to flee when they face any real fighting. The reality is that a rebel military victory seems increasingly unlikely."

With the rebellion's failure staring them in the face, Western powers are debating how they should proceed.  President Obama has promised not to send in ground troops, but NATO may be open to it.

If the small teams of CIA and other intelligence agents are focused on updating intelligence that had been allowed to deteriorate in recent years, they will be of little help without a major infusion of resources for the rebels.  Obama has authorized covert support, but implementation remains sketchy.
One bright spot for Western diplomatic efforts is the defection of Libyan foreign minister Moussa Koussa, which inspired U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to boast: "It tells a compelling story of the desperation and the fear right at the heart of the crumbling and rotten Qaddafi regime."
But battlefield reports do little to boost confidence in the rebels' resilience: "Rebels in gun trucks with antiaircraft guns, heavy machine guns and recoilless rifles seemed unwilling to fire on advancing government troops. Many of the rebel gunners seemed content to melt away and hope — or pray, as one said — that allied airstrikes would save them."
As of now, that looks highly unlikely.



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