Officials Uncertain of Who the Libyan Rebels Are

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As the U.S. military relinquished command of all Libyan air operations to NATO early Thursday, concerns are mounting over whether to arm the opposition forces without certainty of who they are.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made it clear that that the global body had no intentions of arming the nation's rebels. 

Rasmussen said he had "taken note of the ongoing discussions in a number of countries, but as far as NATO is concerned ... we will focus on the enforcement of the arms embargo."

"We are there to protect the Libyan people, not to arm the people," he stated.

The CIA has reportedly sent small groups of operatives into Libya.  International envoys have also met with the nation's rebels, who have found themselves outnumbered and outgunned.

President Obama on Monday night promised not to send ground troops to fight in the North African nation, but left open the question of providing arms and training.

"We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people," the White House said in a statement.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are questioning the identity of Libya's opposition forces.

"If you're asking 'Who are those guys,' you're going to think about whether you really want to arm them," said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, "because our history of arming groups we don't know hasn't been a terribly good one."

"We don't know as much as we would like to know and as much as we expect we will know," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

CBN News interviewed a freelance journalist working in Libya about the make up of the rebel forces.

"These people are not what some are claiming them to be -- rebels as terrorists," freelance journalist Tino Qahoush said. "They are just normal teachers, doctors, engineers--some with no training. They took, but arms to defend their own training."
But the top NATO commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, has said he's seen "flickers" of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah among the rebels. 

CBN News Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell said the situation reminds him of Egypt, where the opposition initially appeared to be free of terrorist influences--and then changed.

"But then, several days, several weeks it becomes clearer that the Muslim Brotherhood is committed and that the revolutions 'can eat their children,'" Mitchell explained. "I think that might true in Libya as in Egypt as well."

Meanwhile, Libya's foreign minister resigned Wednesday, marking the first high-profile resignation since the no-fly zone was implemented.  Britain's former foreign secretary said it could prove to be a tipping point for the Gadhafi regime.

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CBN News
Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

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