General Carter Ham, the commander for US AFRICOM, told Congress today that the Obama Administration would consider sending ground troops into Libya to “aid the rebels,” though he insisted such a move was “not ideal.”
His reasoning was, predictably, nothing to do with the danger of yet another US ground war on the other side of the planet, but because it might harm international support for the ongoing war. The US and France started the war two and a half weeks ago, and have since transferred it to NATO control.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicated last week that ground troops were not on the near term agenda, saying that there would be no ground invasion “as long as I’m in this job.” The promise is increasingly meaningless, however, amid talks he could be replaced by CIA Director Leon Panetta within the next few months.
It is already confirmed that the US has had CIA ground forces inside Libya for “several weeks,” and the US has also deployed troops in the nation for “rescue” missions. The question then is not so much if ground troops will be sent to Libya, but to what extent they are already there, and how much this presence will be escalated in the days and weeks to come.