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Source: Press TV
US intelligence operatives had been on the battlefields in Libya before President Barack Obama signed an order allowing covert assistance to the opposition forces, officials say.
With the battles in Libya taking on the theme of a shadow intelligence war, two US officials have stated that American Special Forces and CIA operational teams were dispatched to the conflict-torn Libya to make contacts with anti-regime forces and to organize and train them, Reuters reported on Thursday.
"They're trying to sort out who could be turned into a military unit and who couldn't," said Bob Baer, a former CIA operative in the Middle East, adding that the operatives may have entered Libya through neighboring Egypt and are lightly equipped.
Another US government source also stated that the Obama administration is mulling over plans under which US Special Forces with experience in the Afghan war would collaborate with CIA officers in efforts to provide training to Libyan opposition fighters.
While such plans have not yet been put into effect, they are fairly advanced, noted the source, adding that there is no indication the plans have been sent to the White House for consideration by Obama.
The White House has so far refused to comment on the apparent shadow war and also declined to discuss an earlier report that Obama had signed a secret order allowing CIA's involvement.
Reports also indicate that in addition to the US, Britain has also dispatched covert intelligence operatives into Libya as part of its efforts to pave the way for further US-led aerial strikes against Gaddafi's forces.
The move comes against the backdrop of behind-the-scene negotiations to arm the Libyan anti-regime forces amid growing concerns that supplying ammunition on the battlefields would violate the provisions set forth in the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Meanwhile, some US lawmakers have heaped Obama with criticism, saying the United States is gradually getting bogged down in another Iraq-style war.
"With Iraq and Afghanistan already occupying a considerable share of American resources, I sincerely hope that this is not the start of a third elongated conflict," said the Republican Chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Howard McKeon.