Libya rebels will receive $25M from U.S.
Dismissing concerns over possible links between Libyan rebels and al Qaeda, the Obama administration has notified Congress it is providing $25 million in nonlethal aid to the rebels’ effort to drive Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from power.
“The president’s proposed actions would provide urgently needed nonlethal assistance to support efforts to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya,” said Joseph E. Macmanus, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, in an April 15 letter. A copy of the letter, sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was obtained by The Washington Times.
The new authorization for assistance would cover “vehicles, fuel trucks and fuel bladders, ambulances, medical equipment, protective vests, binoculars, and non-secure radios,” according to a memorandum attached to the letter.
The letter was disclosed as Britain announced it would be sending military trainers and advisers to Libya to help organize opposition troops. The European Union also said it would send an armed force to Libya to protect deliveries of humanitarian aid.
A Libyan rebel fighter smokes a cigarette next to a multiple rocket ... more >
Questions have emerged in recent weeks about the connection between some of the Libyan opposition and the al Qaeda terrorist group. Noman Benotman, a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, said in an interview last month that about 1,000 freelance jihadists are at large in Libya.
“The U.S. government has been in communication with the TNC in an effort to build a working relationship and to understand its security capabilities and shortfalls, while recognizing the key role that Libyan opposition forces play in the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas in Libya,” the memo said.
The memo also stated that “the TNC has publicly rejected terrorism, embraced the Geneva Conventions, and emphasized its dedication to building democratic institutions to provide for a secular future in which a broad range of Libyan citizens will be able to participate.”
The letter notified Congress that the administration authorized “any U.S. government agency to provide assistance to support efforts by Libyan groups such as the TNC to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack in Libya.”
The letter does not say how that assistance will be delivered or whether U.S. troops would be involved.
A Senate aide who asked not to be identified by name said the nonlethal assistance could open the door to future U.S. arms and other military assistance to the TNC.
“The justification in the letter appears to claim the TNC is stable, democratic and adhering to the Geneva Conventions,” the aide said. “If all of this is true, then why can’t you provide lethal military assistance as well?”
Danielle Pletka, the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said she is concerned by the aid.
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