Operators in Libya

In an earlier posting about “operators” (special forces/CIA) in Libya,[stderr] I posted a picture that I had saved from early in the rebellion there.

It made me wonder whether there were any newer/better pictures that had leaked since then. And, of course, there are. I love these little voyages of discovery; before I started blogging regularly I’d just dig a bit, go “yeah” and forget about it once I had confirmed my first impression. Now, I look for multiple sources and sometimes I find more interesting stories.

source [nyt] – that’s US gear and Detroit-style hat-wearing

Back before Libya became kind of embarrassing, the New York Times was up front about CIA involvement in the ‘rebellion’; that sort of coverage stopped once things got ugly there. I would bet a dollar against a dozen donuts that they were asked to “forget that angle, national security reasons, don’t you know?” The NYT has a depressing history of posing as journalism, but really serving as a mouth-piece for the establishment.

While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

Remember, when they say special forces are in an “advisory capacity” that usually means they are shooting people in their heads from a long distance. British special forces probably mean Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) commandos – some of the most highly-trained killers in the world. I am not sure how to say this except flat-out: they were probably having a lot of fun. Because running around killing people and blowing stuff up: that’s good fun for those fellows; they are so good at it because it’s what they love to do.

Because the publicly stated goal of the Libyan campaign is not explicitly to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi’s government, the clandestine war now going on is significantly different from the Afghan campaign to drive the Taliban from power in 2001.

Yeah, LOL. The NYT was printing “talking points” given to them by the DoD. What a bunch of liars. In the same article NYT reports:

American officials hope that similar information gathered by American intelligence officers — including the location of Colonel Qaddafi’s munitions depots and the clusters of government troops inside towns — might help weaken Libya’s military enough to encourage defections within its ranks.

In other words, the goal of the Libyan campaign is to secretly overthrow Ghaddafi’s government. “We came, we saw, he died.” goes right next to “Mission accomplished.”

Khalifa Haftar with a lot of guys in US-made gear they probably got on Ebay

It was a few months into the Libyan rebellion when rebel forces shot Khalifa Haftar, on the grounds that he was a CIA spy. Haftar probably was. He had spent 20 years living within an easy commute of CIA headquarters in Virginia, then spent a few more years building a mysteriously-funded militia right across the Libyan border in Chad (Chad is run by a CIA-emplaced puppet) [cia-chad]  As CNN reported regarding Haftar: [cnn]

So for the next two years, Haftar and several hundred former Libyan soldiers trained at a base outside the Chadian capital, N’djamena, as the Libyan National Army — the military wing of the opposition Libyan National Salvation Front.

Just who funded them remains shrouded in mystery, but several Libyan exiles and a former CIA officer say the United States was involved. Former Libyan envoy Aujali would not be drawn out on whether the CIA was the paymaster, but said, “The Americans knew him very, very well.”

And he added: “I think working for the CIA for the sake of your national interest is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Um, yeah, and who “spirited in secrecy to the United States when things went bad”? Air America never shut down.

His story reads like a political thriller. Once a confidant of Moammar Gadhafi and then his sworn enemy, he led a band of Libyan exiles trying to overthrow the Libyan regime before being spirited in secrecy to the United States when things went bad. His name is Khalifa Haftar.

He has lived in Virginia for 20 years but now he’s back in Libya, trying to knock the rebel force into some kind of shape.

The US is pretty good at building up a would-be dictator, then helping shuffle them into power. Haftar shows all the signs: he’s been a political nihilist his entire adult life, seeking power from the barrel of a gun. Just the kind of fellow spirit the folks in Langley want; a sharp tool they can put in place as dictator in place of an unreliable one. [aljazeera] Also, a murderous motherfucker. The Libyans are better off without him.

Swiss Mess: DRA-10 operator [source]

Libya sounds like it was chock-a-block with the International Grand Tournee of Operators – even the Swiss supposedly had units in there. “What?” I hear you say, “The Swiss are Neutral!” Well, they probably sent a few of their guys over to kill a few Libyans so they could get blooded, or something.

It’s pretty easy to find out where the special forces have been, and who they have been killing, because: they like to brag. It seems that “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” followed by a dick-measuring “no shit there I was” sotto voce story is the standard “Operator’s mating call.”

DRA-10 was stood up in 2003, under the command of Major Daniel Stoll, to recover Swiss nationals like those in Libya being held under duress. Initially, the unit had as few as 30 soldiers, but DRA-10 is now suspected to number at about 40 operators. The unit is said to be structured along the same lines as 22SAS and to have received initial training from other foreign SOF units. Because of Switzerland’s policy of neutrality, they have not benefited from the war time learning experiences that neighboring NATO nations have had in Afghanistan, but exchanges are conducted with France and Belgium to help Swiss soldiers understand what Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures are working in combat.

Discussing some hostage-rescue plans where Swiss DRA were going to try to collect some citizens being held in Libya:

The second plan would be similar to the first but would use Niger as an intermediary rather than Algeria. Negotiations were conducted with the Tuaregs. On January 9th, DRA-10 was ready to execute the operation when it was discovered that they had already been compromised. The Swiss signals intercept program known as Onyx picked up Libyan communications indicating that they were aware of DRA-10’s exfiltration plan since at least December 18th. Needless to say, this mission had to be scrubbed as well.

From late May to early June of 2009, the planning for the third attempt was underway. This time DRA-10 engaged in some unconventional thinking to engineer a very unique method of extracting the Swiss hostages from Libya. Through clandestine means, Max and Rachid were instructed to begin going for a daily swim at the beach about an hour outside of Tripoli. The reason for this was to desensitize the guards watching over the hostages and inoculate them to a daily routine which would play into the hands of the DRA-10 operation.

Wearing civilian clothes, the Swiss operators would rent a yacht and sail down the Libyan coast. When the two Swiss citizens were taking their daily swim, they would meet with an unfortunate accident, drowning in the Mediterranean ocean, or at least this is what the guards would be led to believe. In reality, the two hostages would be recovered underwater by DRA-10 combat divers. The hostages would be provided with SCUBA equipment and then would conduct a sub-surface swim back to the yacht.

I do support the idea of rescuing hostages. But in this case it would have been a lot less risky and a lot cheaper if they had just offered the Libyans a few bars of nazi gold, or something, and not bothered with all the sekrit skwirrel.

The US, of course, is the unsubtlest 900-lb gorilla of sekrit skwirrels. And when the US’ operators move, they leave big tracks. Apparently, a planeload of Special Forces/CIA operators landed in Libya and were told their invitation had been rescinded. So they grumpily loaded all their guns and stuff back on their plane, and left.


I found an article about this incident, on Russia Times [rt] which is a bit more willing to report on embarrassing screwups than the New York Times.


Libya’s air force said in a Facebook post that 20 US commandoes arrived at Wattiya airbase and disembarked “in combat readiness,” only to be told to leave. Pentagon sources confirmed the US had sent a special forces unit to Libya as part of a mission.

The Libyan Air Force said the 20 soldiers arrived at the airbase on Monday, but left soon after local commanders asked them to go because they had no right to be at the base “without prior coordination with protection force base.”

The Libyan air force published a Facebook post on Wednesday which included photographs of the special forces unit. It noted the 20 soldiers had disembarked “in combat readiness wearing bullet proof jackets, advanced weapons, silencers, handguns, night vision devices and GPS devices.”

Unfortunately, the facebook post has been taken down.

But, there’s more: in one of the pictures about the incident, on the Guardian, there’s a picture of the grumpy-looking guys getting back on their plane.Now, if that was posted by the Libyan air force they had to have known what they were doing when they included the tail number of the plane. There’s no way that’s an oversight, especially given the otherwise dead composition of the right-hand side of the frame. So google “Libya 13097” and we get more fun story:

Early in the morning on Dec. 14, a C-146A Wolfhound (US military designation of the Do-328), serial number 13097, registration N307EF, operated by the 524th Special Operations Squadron of the 27th Special Operations Wing, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, landed at al-Watiyah airbase southwest of Tripoli, Libya.

Interestingly, the aircraft carried a team of armed people wearing civilian clothes: according to some sources they landed at 6 AM on December 14 without any coordination with the local authorities and that’s why they were asked to leave. Although it was later confirmed that they were US SOF (Special Ops Forces) the reason of their “trip” to Libya has yet to be explained.

This is what I mean about how the dirt comes out. Things don’t happen in a vacuum; there are always logistics. [the aviationist]

The C-126A can be frequently tracked online as it flies between Stuttgard and airports in southern Italy, especially Pantelleria, a little Italian island off Tunisia, sometimes used by a U.S. Beechcraft King Air 350ER carrying registration N351DY, the civil version of the MC-12W ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform operated by the U.S. Air Force, flying missions over the western Tunisia regions (where jidahist terrorists behind the Bardo Museum attack have been hiding).

My tinfoil hat works pretty well. The New York Times’ doesn’t.

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By the way, I do similar voyages of discovery about art; I just don’t bother putting research together to defend it, because it’s not a very contentious topic. I remember back when Ed Brayton’s blog used to be on FtB, I got into arguments a few times in which I said “I bet there are US/CIA troops down in Libya causing trouble” and was told I needed a new tinfoil hat, etc. Yeah, well.

While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.” – if Donald Trump had said that, the  NYT would call him a liar. And, he would be. The NYT probably also knew about Obama’s completely illegal invasion of Syria. I have to say, the NYT appears to be playing sides – which makes sense because Trump has been a hateful asshole toward the media – but, eh, so much for journalism.


  1. Siobhan says

    Is it just generally safe to assume the USA is involved if it’s a non-NATO territory with oil in it?

  2. says

    Is it just generally safe to assume the USA is involved if it’s a non-NATO territory with oil in it?


    I’m sure there are still a few people who’ll insist that CIA had nothing to do with Syria and Ukraine. We’ll see.

  3. secondtofirstworld says

    @Marcus Ranum #2:

    Despite your intentions, you do make some dangerous oversimplifications here. I start with the last one. The ideas of the French and British Enlightenment arrived in the Eastern Europe and Russia decades later. Take for example the revolutions of 1848. Whereas Western nations granted more rights to peasants and workers in 1777, the Habsburgs and the Romanoffs answered with absolutism and quasi feudalism. So when these revolutions came, the goal in the West was both national independence and a wider democracy, with little to no input from the clergy. In the east, these were revolutions to brake off from an empire, but keeping in line with royalty and the church. As it failed, movements growing out of those ideas, like socialism, feminism, anarchy or liberalism hasn’t really started. The Treaty of Versailles did create nation states, but to nations doomed to fail, since they had no roots in democracy. Though the Russians were on the winning side in both wars, they grew to resent the West for scooping up all possible colonies, leaving them with places like The Ukraine. Closed off by every nation around them, paranoia became a nation’s trait, and attempts at “westernizing” them is seen as intrusion into their sphere of influence. Khrushchev might have been Ukrainian, but thanks to Stalin’s meddling, plenty of “unreliable” people were deported, some as far as the Russian Far East (the story of the local Ukrainian republic is an interesting read), and replaced with “reliable” Russians. This led to the eastern half of the country only speaking Russian, with the middle speaking a mixture, and only the Western half is predominantly Ukrainian. Under Yeltsin, both sides ratified an agreement respecting the other’s territorial integrity, something that was seen as weak with hardliners. You’re free to check energy transport disruptions from the time before Putin took office, when a Kremlin loyal leader was in Kiev, and times when not. No CIA involvement was required to light up that powder keg, as conflicts from decades ago are still unresolved as per usual with the east.

    Syria. There’s a good argument for America not wanting a total destabilization, it’s called Hezbollah. Beside the expected, that happened, like Turkey and Iraq meddling forcefully based on age old territorial requests, a clusterf*ck near the Golan Heights would be WW3, as the Iran backed anti-Israeli forces would use it as a staging ground to mount attacks against a state, whose right to exist they do not acknowledge. Were that to happen, a full blown Sunni versus Shia sectarian war would break out, disrupting the oil supply so much it would invoke a second oil crisis. This doesn’t mean, that bogies aren’t or weren’t there, it just means America isn’t the only bogeyman.

    Lastly, Libya. Your graph from your last post as to where weapons go from Libya… almost exactly from where they came. I’m not contesting, that Haftar couldn’t be a new Chalabi (who, as you might recall did not get to be Iraq’s leader), but Chadians need no extra push from foreigners after Qaddafi tried to kill them. The main reason el-Sisi doesn’t attack them is because he doesn’t want ISIS to creep further into Egypt than it already is despite Egypt having the same sentiment as Chad.

    The cardinal difference between the 2 special forces (that of America and Russia) is that the latter serves national interests, the former isn’t always clear. True, the second Iraq war has redirected private militaries to serve the US, but we both know even then they had self imposed goals to which they had unlimited support from the official military.

  4. says

    I start with the last one. The ideas of the French and British Enlightenment arrived in the Eastern Europe and Russia[…]
    No CIA involvement was required to light up that powder keg.

    Perhaps no CIA involvement was required, but that doesn’t mean that CIA was not involved. As I said, we don’t know.

    If there was, it (obviously) wasn’t with ‘local’ troops and weapons like in Hafter’s crew in Libya. There was the usual support for Twitter as an anti-government vehicle when it’s convenient (and shut down when it’s not) but that’s minor. There’s also doubtless a tremendous amount of backchannel with Poroshenko regarding NATO membership.

    I think it’s too early to say. Frequently what it takes is encouragement – knowing that someone (be it Russia or the US) is going to back-stop you if things get ugly. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s not. I don’t think we get a clear idea about what happened until more time passes.

    I’m not asking you to prove a negative (“prove the CIA wasn’t involved!”) because that’d be ridiculous. The bodies aren’t cold, let alone buried.

    Syria. There’s a good argument for America not wanting a total destabilization, it’s called Hezbollah.

    You’re saying it’s not smart for the US to want to destabilize Syria. Well, sure. But that doesn’t mean that the US didn’t do it! The US has had various degrees of “Assad must go!” for a long time, partially depending on how the Israelis are leaning at any given time, which – as you say – is tied to Hezbollah.

    The US has definitely been up to shenanigans in Syria!
    I mean, when you’ve got special forces carrying out raids in your country, in 2008, yeah, that means there’s a pretty big intelligence footprint inside there.

    The US’ attitude probably was that the Assad regime would be allowed to continue as long as they didn’t interfere, but when the opportunity looked good, sure, a bit of a nudge. In the case of Syria it has been more than a bit of a nudge – the US successively began arming the rebels as soon as the rebellion began. That indicates that they already were deeply networked into the rebel command structure, knew who to talk to, etc.