The Obama administration is debating how aggressively to pursue Libya’s vast weapons stockpiles, including tons of caustic mustard agent and thousands of anti-aircraft rockets that some fear could fall into the hands of terrorists or Libyan loyalists. Their concern is that the rockets in particular may be sold, ending up in the hands of al-Qaida or fueling a Libyan insurgency.
The State Department wants to wait for fighting to drawdown before moving into Libya to locate and secure Libya’s weapons. It’s also arguing for working through the Libyan rebel government. On the other side, some U.S. intelligence officials have been pushing to expand the CIA’s role in Libya to track down the weaponry faster, unilaterally and without the rebels.
Despite public denials that the US will put troops on the ground, the Obama administration already has the CIA in small teams of officers, backed by mercenary contractors helping to guide Libyan rebel fighters. Since the CIA teams are operating covertly, they are absolved of the restrictions under the U.N.-sanctioned mission to protect civilians in Libya.
Military advisers from Britain, France, Italy and Qatar are also on the ground advising rebels and NATO bombers on the whereabouts of the enemy.
The US and NATO have been concerned about the weapons stockpiles for some time now, which serves to highlight their lack of confidence in the amateurish Libyan rebel council and its loosely affiliated disparate gangs, despite having launched them into ruling a post-Gadhafi Libya.