What do CIA operatives wear on their feet when they go into North Africa? Depending on the answer to that question, the United States may already have boots on the ground in Libya. President Barack Obama has told the nation that American troops would not get involved in that nation’s conflict. Our involvement was ostensibly to pursue and then enforce a no-fly zone, then to hand it all over to NATO – which we substantially supply and sponsor.
However, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the president authorized the CIA to explore ways to assist the opposition, and that the agency “has placed covert operatives on the ground in parts of Libya, feeding intelligence on ground targets to the U.S. military and coalition forces for airstrikes and reaching out to rebels aligned against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, officials say.” Reporter Adam Entous, who quotes unnamed officials throughout the piece, writes:
“There are a variety of ways in which the CIA could aid the rebels, from supplying them with intelligence from satellites and informants to helping arrange arms transfers.”
I’ve added the italics for effect.
To take out anti-aircraft targets and other positions, it’s good to have intelligence. There’s not really a tactical argument against sending in operatives, other than the normal risks assumed. However, this should be a wake-up call to everybody that it’s hard to just dip your toes in the water with something like this. It can easily suck you in.