US rushes to help create commando force in Libya
Libyans man a checkpoint near Brega, Libya, in March 2011, during the revolution that eventually toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The men told Al Jazeera they were special forces soldiers who had defected.
The Pentagon and State Department are rushing to help the Libyan government create a commando force to combat Islamic extremists like the ones who killed the American ambassador in Libya last month and to help counter the country’s fractious militias, The New York Times reported Monday, citing internal government documents.
"The Obama administration quietly won Congress’s approval last month to shift about $8 million from Pentagon operations and counterterrorism aid budgeted for Pakistan to begin building an elite Libyan force over the next year that could ultimately number about 500 troops," according to the Times report. "American Special Operations forces could conduct much of the training, as they have with counterterrorism forces in Pakistan and Yemen, American officials said."
Libya's military had special forces commandos under former leader Moammar Gadhafi, but they were disorganized and some of the first to defect when the Gadhafi regime fell, the Times said.
Since then, the newly elected leaders have struggled to maintain order in the country. Rival militias defy the government and wreak havoc, sparking mass protests by civilians. In September, the government ordered the rogue militias to disband and raided several of their bases, but the deadly Sept, 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi showed Libya still has little control over the well-organized and well-armed fighters.
A U.S. official told the Times that vetting for the new commando force would likely be conducted by American and Libyan officials to weed out Islamists and others not loyal to the Libyan government. The training would be aimed at creating a quick-reaction force that planners envision becoming the core of a revamped Libyan armed forces.
Officials told the Times they are expecting a final decision on the plan by the end of the year, with trainers fielding the initial units within 12 months.
Source: The New York Times