Obama Sends More Drones, Marines to Libya, But Did They Ever Leave?

September 14th, 2012 - by admin

John Glaser / AntiWar.com & Spencer Ackerman / Danger Room, Wired Magazine – 2012-09-14 00:58:59

Obama Sends More Drones, Marines to Libya, But Did They Ever Leave?

Apparently, There Is Nothing So Permanent as a Temporary US War
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

September 13, 2012) — The Obama administration has ordered military reinforcements to Libya following the attack on the US consulate building this week, but the truth is drones had never left Libya’s skies and US Marines have been carrying out missions on the ground since the end of NATO’s war there last year.

The US suspects al-Qaeda affiliates were involved in starting the attack on the US consulate in Libya, which killed the American ambassador and three others, and has not only started an FBI investigation into the incident, but has ordered more drones to surveil Libya, as well as up to 50 additional US Marines and US warships equipped with Tomahawk missiles off the northern coast.

But the Defense Department told Wired‘s Danger Room that the drones never left, despite the fact that the NATO air war in Libya came to an end almost a year ago.

“Yes, we have been flying CAPs [combat air patrols] since the war ended,” said Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. These have apparently been done for surveillance purposes with the consent of the new Libyan government.

Similarly, the 50 additional US Marines being sent to Libya won’t exactly be new. One of the four Americans killed in this week’s consulate attack told ABC News last month he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to find some of the hoards of weapons strewn about the country following the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime.

The late economist Milton Friedman was famous for saying that there is nothing so permanent as a government temporary program. He was referring to domestic policies and bureaucracies, but the same principle applies here.

When the US government engages in military action abroad, the tendency is for such military engagements to remain open-ended, in keeping with America’s long history of spreading its military across the entire globe.

US Drones Never Left Libya; Will Hunt Benghazi Thugs
Spencer Ackerman / Danger Room, Wired Magazine

(September 12, 2012) — The skies over Libya were clogged with US Predator drones during last year’s war. But just because the war officially ended in October didn’t mean the drones went home.

A Defense Department official tells Danger Room that the US has kept drone flights flying over Libya, despite the conflict that initially brought them to Libyan airspace ending nearly a year ago.

“Yes, we have been flying CAPs since the war ended,” says Army Lt. Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. (CAPs is a military acronym for “combat air patrols,” a term of art that typically refers to several planes flying at once for a particular mission.) The drone flights, done for surveillance purposes, occur with the consent of the new Libyan government.

The Defense Department did not release further details about the drone flights. But CNN is reporting that drone flights will assist in spotting the perpetrators of Tuesday’s lethal attack on US diplomatic personnel in Benghazi.

Last year’s war brought drones to Libya in force, both for surveillance missions and to attack Gadhafi loyalists. Between April 21 and October 21, 2011, Predators launched 145 strikes on ex-regime targets. That was twice the barrage drones unleashed in all of 2011 on tribal Pakistan, the place commonly thought of as the epicenter of US drone strikes.

In fact, the Libya war’s first US casualty was a drone helicopter. And apparently, NATO’s announcement on October 21, 2011 that the war was over had a caveat for flying robots.

The drones won’t be the only tool in Libya to “bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” to use President Barack Obama’s phrase about the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi. A team of about 50 Marines is en route to Libya, for an as-yet unclear mission that could range from securing US personnel in the country to evacuating them. Defense Department officials have been vague all day about US military assets envisioned to avenge the deaths of four Americans.

It is unknown what exactly motivated a crowd in Benghazi to attack US diplomatic personnel. The attack, which took place in at least two waves and involved small arms fire and rocket attacks, was initially thought to be motivated by a movie mocking the Prophet Muhammad made by a mysterious American filmmaker.

But later reports suggest that militant organizations might have planned an assault, instead of a spontaneous protest turning violent. Reuters reported that Libyan officials blamed a militant organization called Ansar al-Sharia. Noman Benotman, a Libyan former Islamic extremist, claims that the attack was a reprisal for the US killing a Libyan al-Qaida leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in Pakistan.

The White House has taken an initially agnostic position. “There is a lot of press speculation for who did this and why but at this stage it would be premature to ascribe any motive to this reprehensible act,” Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, tells Danger Room. “As the President said, make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” And one of the tools for that purpose will be robotic.

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