Middle East

U.S. moves to help Libya create commando force

Libyan Army Chief of Staff Yussef al-Mangoush (R) speaks to Libyan National Congress President Mohammed Maqrif (C, red tie) during the opening ceremony of the Libyan army's scientific conference in Tripoli October 15, 2012. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

WASHINGTON: The U.S. administration has won congressional approval to devote $8 million to helping Libya develop a commando force to fight extremist groups, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The funds would be shifted from Pentagon operations in Pakistan to help Libya develop a force to counter increasingly powerful Islamist militants, like those who attacked the US consulate last month killing four Americans.

The Times said plans for the elite Libyan force, expected to number some 500 troops, were in the works before the September 11 attack but have been accelerated since then amid increased concern over the North African country.

Libya's weak central government has had to rely on a patchwork of militias -- including many Islamist groups -- to secure the country since rebels toppled the four-decade-old regime of Moamer Kadhafi last year.

The Times cited a State Department memo sent to Congress on September 4 as saying that the goal of the program is to enhance "Libya's ability to combat and defend against threats from Al Qaeda and its affiliates."

It cited a companion Pentagon document as saying the commando force would "counter and defeat terrorist and violent extremist organizations."

The Times said a final decision on the program has not yet been made, and that US officials were still working out the exact details in consultation with Libyan political and military leaders.

Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon could immediately be reached for comment.





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