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U.S. defense secretary says situation unclear in Libya

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By Pam Benson, CNN National Security Producer

Should U.S. arm Libyan rebels?


  • U.S. doesn’t know who opposition leaders are
  • Amount of violence makes it hard to connect with rebels, official says

Washington (CNN) — U.S. officials are having a tough time getting a good read on developments inside Libya.

A U.S. official who wished to remain nameless because the official was not authorized to speak on the record said the situation “remains chaotic” in Libya with continued violence by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi against protesters in various parts of the country.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on Tuesday it’s unclear how many casualties have been incurred, how many rebels have been killed.

And there’s considerable ambiguity about the opposition. The U.S. official said it’s “unclear who the leaders in the opposition are and that makes it difficult” for the United States to provide assistance.

The official did say “the intelligence community is aggressively pursing information on the ground,” pointing out that the CIA has had a presence in the country for some time.

The U.S. official said the answer might lie with reaching out to grassroots organizations like the various tribes who make up Libyan society plus disillusioned military officers.

However, Gates said, you can only speculate on the potential capabilities of the opposition. “I think it remains to be seen how effectively military leaders who have defected from Gadhafi’s forces can organize the opposition in the country,” he said. “We are watching that unfold, as you are.”

The U.S. official also said the level of violence in Libya makes it more challenging to connect with the rebels. “If there were less violence, it would be easier to manage and figure out who to approach.”

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U.S. defense secretary says situation unclear in Libya

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