|Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is seen as
he gives an audio message on television
© AFP/ARRAI ORUBA TELEVISION
Editor’s Note: For an important look at the role Brookings Institution (mentioned in the article below) plays in destabilizing sovereign nations, please read Which Path to Persia? “Low profile” is just the way they like it, so spread the word.
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US intelligence agencies have a crucial role to play in tracking down Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi but are anxious to keep a low profile, current and former officials said Thursday.
Although the military and the State Department sought to distance Washington from the manhunt, current and former officials acknowledged that finding the fugitive strongman was an important priority for US spy agencies.
“It’s a question of getting to him before he tries to form an insurgency against the new government,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“Does he have a stronghold somewhere in the Libyan desert that he’s frequented in the past? Is there a tribal stronghold where he would most likely be able to hang out?”
The United States has a vast array of assets to bring to bear, including surveillance aircraft, eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, and tips from high-ranking defectors and CIA operatives on the ground, he said.
Defectors such as Mussa Kussa, a former head of Libyan intelligence and foreign minister, could be a crucial resource in locating Kadhafi by providing insights into where he might flee.
“We’ve also benefited from the defection of senior Libyan officials like Mussa Kussa, who have undoubtedly been asked quite forcefully to tell everything that they have to know about how the colonel’s military and intelligence structures work,” Riedel said.
With rebel forces asserting control of most of Libya and Kadhafi on the run, the US military’s attention had naturally shifted to the former ruler’s whereabouts and “what comes next,” said a defense official.
“That’s the focus, given his (Kadhafi’s) potential to command forces,” the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
Britain’s Defense Minister Liam Fox said NATO was helping the rebels with intelligence and reconnaissance to find Kadhafi, a claim denied by the alliance.
In press briefings Thursday, the Pentagon and State Department insisted finding Kadhafi was not a priority and cited the UN-backed mandate for the NATO air campaign that only calls for protecting Libyan civilians.
“Neither the United States nor NATO is involved in this manhunt. It’s a Libyan effort,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Drawing lessons from the US experience in Iraq, Washington and its allies wanted to avoid any appearance of heavy-handed intervention that would overshadow the rebels, experts said.
“Any assistance on that (manhunt) would be behind the scenes, just by nature of the intelligence that’s involved,” said Frederic Wehrey, senior policy analyst at the RAND corporation.
But Wehrey, who served as a US advisor in Iraq, said it was unlikely that Kadhafi could foment a genuine insurgency.
“I think the real concern is the importance of setting an example of justice and reconciliation and bringing closure to nearly 40 years of authoritarian rule,” he said.
“His capture and trial will be an important step in the rehabilitation of the country and in moving forward.”
Apart from Kadhafi, the US military and intelligence services are also monitoring chemical weapons stockpiles, possible retribution by rebel forces and the threat of Islamist militants within their ranks, officials said.
© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license