President Barack Obama apparently has signed an order to send covert U.S. forces to help Libyan rebels fighting against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, officials exclusively told Reuters Wednesday.
The exclusive report said that the president signed the mandate secretly, within the past two to three weeks. Reuters added that the order likely means that the CIA will deploy their operatives to aid the rebel fighters.
“As is common practice for this and all Administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters," said White House spokesperson Jay Carney in a web statement. "I will reiterate what the President said yesterday – no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya.”
The Obama administration is “assessing and reviewing options” for various types of assistance to Libyan rebels.
The White House usually does not confirm if covert orders have been signed.
The president on Tuesday went on several major televisions stations saying that Gadhafi is “greatly weakened” and the embattled veteran strongman will have to step down soon.
The report also comes as U.S. and NATO forces have openly discussed giving arms to the Libyan rebels, who have inferior equipment compared with Gadhafi’s troops. However, they did not definitively state that this course of action would be taken.
People familiar with CIA procedures told Reuters that the secret signing of covert operations is done to support a wide array of objectives, including giving weapons or money to rebel fighters.
Obama on Tuesday night said that the U.S. will proceed cautiously in aiding anti-Gadhafi forces, as it is not known whether there are terrorist groups among their ranks.
Obama said on network television, “I think it's important for us not to jump in with both feet but to carefully consider: What are the goals of the opposition? What kind of transition do they want to bring about inside of Libya? Because our main concern here is the Libyan people as well as stability in the region.”