The BBC’s Mark Urban reveals just how much planning and scheming went into the toppling and the execution of Gaddafi: “British efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes. On the ground – and on the quiet – special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters. This is the previously untold account of the crucial part they played. The British campaign to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi’s regime had its public face – with aircraft dropping bombs, or Royal Navy ships appearing in Libyan waters, but it also had a secret aspect. My investigations into that covert effort reveal a story of practically minded people trying to get on with the job, while all the time facing political and legal constraints imposed from London”. In other words, this BBC report all but confirms what I wrote some time back: ‘But, how did the situation in Libya transform into an all-out armed rebellion so quickly? On this point, the Israeli independent internet website DEBKAfile, founded by a team of journalists in June 2000, which aims to provide an intelligence and security news service, reported on 25 February 2011 that “[h]undreds of US, British and French military advisers have arrived in Cyrenaica, Libya’s eastern breakaway province, Debkafile’s military sources report exclusively. This is the first time America and Europe have intervened militarily in any of the popular upheavals rolling through the Middle East since Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in early January. The advisers, including intelligence officers, were dropped from warships and missile boats at the coastal towns of Benghazi and Tobruk Thursday Feb. 24, for a threefold mission: 1. To help the revolutionary committees controlling eastern Libyan establish government frameworks for supplying two million inhabitants with basic services and commodities; 2. To organize them into paramilitary units, teach them how to use the weapons they captured from Libyan army facilities, help them restore law and order on the streets and train them to fight Muammar Gadhafi’s combat units coming to retake Cyrenaica. 3. To prepare infrastructure for the intake of additional foreign troops. Egyptian units are among those under consideration”. Since then, there has also been the embarrassing capture of an SAS team in Libya – an eight-strong group, who were escorting a junior British diplomat – which indicates that there is clearly more than meets the eye in the state of Libya. And there were also reports that Russian satellite surveillance did not show any kind shelling or bombardment in Libya, prior to the UN-imposed No-Fly Zone that is. The Russian state-sponsored news broadcaster RT at the time worded the revelation in this way: “the Russian military, monitoring the unrest via satellite from the very beginning, says nothing of the sort [of violence and bombing as reported] was going on the ground”. Then, it also transpired that U.S. “President Obama [had] . . . signed a secret order – a so-called “presidential finding”— authorising covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi”. And now, the rebels have finally overrun Tripoli with the help of NATO bombs. The much-hated figure of Muammar Gadhafi, however, is nowhere to be found. Again, similar to the case of Public Enemy #1 Usamah bin Laden following the conquest of Afghanistan, rumours have now emerged that the elusive colonel is hiding in an underground network of fortified tunnels, even rumoured to hold a tank battalion’. These words were written prior to the capture and brutal execution of the Libyan leader on 20 October 2011.
In my piece, I continue that the ‘reason behind NATO’s military intervention seems plain to see: Libya’s supplies of sweet oil destined for European and other markets. An eminent scholar and Mid-East specialist like Professor Juan Cole can publicly pronounce that to think that “[t]his was a war for Libya’s oil . . . is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them”. Still, Libya’s underground wealth is there to see for anybody who cares to look. According to the Global Trade Atlas, published by International Energy Agency (IEA), in calendar year 2010, 28% of Libya’s oil exports went to Italy, 15% to France, and 10% to Spain and Germany each. The U.S. only received 3% of Libya’s exports. Following the successful conquest of Tripoli, the Transitional National Council (TNC), now renamed NTC, was quick to point out that existing contracts would be honoured. It should not come as a surprise that Italy is able to carry off the lion share of Libya’s oil exports – Libya briefly was an Italian colony after all (1911-47)’.
But the BBC’s Urban really goes down to the nitty-gritty of the affair: the “first significant involvement of British forces inside Libya was a rescue mission mounted just a couple of weeks after the rising against Gaddafi broke out. On 3 March, Royal Air Force C130 aircraft were sent to a desert airstrip at Zilla in the south of the country to rescue expatriate oil workers. Many had been threatened by gunmen and bandits. This airlift of 150 foreigners, including about 20 Britons, to Valletta airport in Malta went smoothly, despite one of the aircraft being hit by ground fire soon after taking off. Accompanying the flights were about two dozen men from C Squadron of the Special Boat Service (SBS), who helped secure the landing zone. It was a short-term and discreet intervention that saved the workers from risk of abduction or murder, and caused little debate in Whitehall. Events, though, were moving chaotically and violently onwards, with the Libyan armed forces breaking up and Benghazi emerging as the centre of opposition. The government sought to open contacts with the National Transitional Council both overtly and covertly”. This successful intervention was followed by the March 2011 debacle I alluded to higher, but things did not end there, as “key figures in the Downing Street discussions were convinced that air strikes alone would not achieve the result they wanted. At sessions of the National Security Council, Gen Richards and Mr Fox made the case for planning to provide training and equipment for the revolutionary forces of the NTC”. Urban continues that at a “meeting near the end of March , we have been told, authorisation was given to take certain steps to develop the NTC’s embryonic ground forces. This involved the immediate dispatch of a small advisory team, and the longer-term development of a “train and equip” project. Ministers were advised, say those familiar with the discussion, that this second part of the plan would take at least three months to implement. When half a dozen British officers arrived at a seaside hotel in Benghazi at the beginning of April, they were unarmed and their role was strictly limited. They had been told to help the NTC set up a nascent defence ministry, located in a commandeered factory on the outskirts of the city. The first and most basic task of the advisory team was to get the various bands of Libyan fighters roaring around in armed pick-up trucks under some sort of central co-ordination. As reporters had discovered, most of these men had little idea of what they were doing, and soon panicked if they thought Col Gaddafi’s forces were attacking or outflanking them. There were a number of legal issues preventing them giving more help. Some Whitehall lawyers argued that any type of presence on the ground was problematic. Legal doubts were raised about arming the NTC or targeting Col Gaddafi. Once the air operation was put on a proper Nato footing, these issues became even more vexed, insiders say, with the alliance saying it would not accept men on the ground “directing air strikes” in a way that some newspapers, even in late spring, were speculating was already happening. The British government’s desire to achieve the overthrow of Gaddafi while accommodating the legal sensitivities registered by various Whitehall departments led to some frustration among those who were meant to make the policy work”.
Urban elaborates that although “plenty of people in Whitehall still remembered the March debacle, it was agreed to allow a limited number of British advisers to take a direct part in training and mentoring NTC units in Libya. Sources say the number of men sent from D Squadron of 22 SAS Regiment was capped at 24. They were performing their mission by late August . While France and Qatar were ready to provide weapons directly, the UK was not. However, this made little practical difference since the SAS was operating closely with Qatar special forces who had reportedly delivered items such as Milan anti-tank missiles . . . During the months that this project had taken to come to fruition, the slow grinding down of Gaddafi’s forces by air attack had continued. Soon after the foreign trainers arrived, NTC units swept into Tripoli. Some people close to the Libyan revolution say that the Qatari chief of defence staff claimed credit for coming up with the strategy of pushing simultaneously towards the Libyan capital from different directions. Certainly, the foreign special forces on the ground played a role in co-ordinating the different columns. The SAS had meanwhile strayed beyond its training facility, with single men or pairs accompanying the NTC commanders that they had been training back to their units. They dressed as Libyans and blended in with the units they mentored, says someone familiar with the operation. There had been concerns that they would be spotted by the press, but this did not happen. “We have become a lot better at blending in,” says someone familiar with the D Squadron operation. “Our people were able to stay close to the NTC commanders without being compromised.” Instead, as the revolutionaries fought their way into Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they were assisted by a handful of British and other special forces. Members of the Jordanian and United Arab Emirates armies had fallen in behind the Qataris too. When, on 20 October, Gaddafi was finally captured and then killed by NTC men, it followed Nato air strikes on a convoy of vehicles carrying leading members of the former regime as they tried to escape from Sirte early in the morning. Had British soldiers on the ground had a hand in this? Nobody will say yet. In keeping with its long standing policies on special forces and MI6 operations, Whitehall has refrained from public statements about the nature of assistance on the ground. The Ministry of Defence reiterated that policy when asked to comment on this story. Speaking at a public event late last year, though, Gen Richards commented that the NTC forces “were the land element, an ‘army’ was still vital”. He also noted that “integrating the Qataris, Emiratis and Jordanians into the operatiLon was key”. He did not, however, allude to the presence of more than 20 British operators on the ground. ast October the Chief of the Qatar Defence Staff revealed that “hundreds” of his troops has been on the ground in Libya. British sources agree Qatar played a leading role – and accept it put more soldiers in than the UK – but question whether the number was this large. Around the more secret parts of Whitehall, the suggestion is that the number committed on the ground by all nations probably did not exceed a couple of hundred. As for Britain’s decision finally to deploy an SAS squadron, “they made a fantastic difference”, argues one insider. It is part of the essence of troops of this kind that they often operate in secrecy, providing their political masters with policy options that they might not wish to own up to publicly”.
In a pensive mood, Urban ends his account with the words, “given that the UK’s earlier relationship with Col Gaddafi and his intelligence services caused great embarrassment, it could be that attention will one day focus more closely on British assistance to the NTC, particularly if the Libyan revolution comes unstuck”. And here is a video by the YouTuber StopNATOcrimes highlighting Gaddafi’s positive achievements, which have now been undone by the victorious NATO alliance and its NTC allies, before going on a tangent about Rothschild-owned banks and what have you.
(1) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi” BBC News Magazine (19 January 2012).
(2) C. Erimtan, “Libya: The End of Gadhafi and the Economic Aftermath” IRCNL.
(3) C. Erimtan, “Libya: The End of Gadhafi and the Economic Aftermath”.
(4) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(5) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(6) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(7)Mark Uban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.
(8) Mark Urban, “Inside story of the UK’s secret mission to beat Gaddafi”.