The Libyan civil war became more complicated this week when British and French officials said they would send military advisers to help the rebels strengthen their effort.
The tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar has complicated its life by providing weapons to the rebels opposed to dictator Moammar Gadhafi. They add to the planes that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates already have contributed to the no-fly zone over Libya.
France and the United Kingdom are, along with Italy, the NATO allies who were most enthusiastic about getting involved in the Libyan conflict. If the rebel troops with whom their advisers are working continue to get pushed around as they have been by Gadhafi’s forces, or are driven back toward their provisional capital in Benghazi, British and French leaders will increase pressure on the United States to put American boots on the ground.
President Obama has resisted such appeals so far. He should continue to do so, even as the United States plays a useful role in the Libyan operation.
The CIA may already be involved with the Libyan rebels, perhaps even on the ground, although the Obama Administration denies it. The militia of the Libyan rebels is divided between troops loyal to Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, who says he is the rebels’ top military commander, and those who answer to Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who says the same.
General Hifter has a long-standing relationship with the CIA, dating back at least to the mid-1980s when he led a Libyan attack on Chad. The Libyans lost.
Then-Colonel Hifter’s forces were captured by Chadian and French forces in Chad. They were later “liberated” through then-Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a deal carried out by the CIA.
Mr. Hifter has lived in Virginia near CIA headquarters since 1987. It is hard to imagine that he has not maintained his lines to the U.S. intelligence agency.
It is likely that Mr. Gadhafi will seek revenge against Qatar, population 840,000, and perhaps the United Arab Emirates as well for having tried to oust him from power. The United States has close military relations with both countries, and so will risk being dragged into any subsequent problems with Libya.
President Obama must continue to pay close attention to what is being done in Libya in America’s name.