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30 March 2011


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William R. Cumming

Could the former Wheelus AFB be made a secure logistics center to aid the insurgents?

Also MSM reporting CIA deployed in country under covert finding signed several weeks ago by President Obama.


Yes, sounds like a plan (and, kudos on the insights of your first post--they've really held up well).
I agree that getting some rebels off of the coastal road is crucial to flexibility. Maintenance is absolutely crucial too--the desert is not the mountains, but both are extreme environments and we had real problems keeping abreast of this in the Kargil War. If you're right about sandstorms, that is worrying if the rebels will be deprived of air-support for days on end!


Just heard on CBS news that Obama has issued a "secret signing statement" authorizing use of special forces in support of rebels, but not to participate in combat in any way. (How secret can it be if they're leaking it to CBS??? Guess they want to send someone a message...)
Maybe someone in WH is reading TTG's posts. Anyone know any details?

Patrick Lang


It is now in the middle of Tripoli. pl

FB Ali


An excellent plan. One can only wish that it is implemented rather than some silly attempt at creating a regular military force out of the rebel fighters.

As you note, Qaddafi's forces are adapting to the air strikes by abandoning their reliance on their tank forces and instead are using light infantry. Since they seem to be using the same kind of vehicles as the rebels, there will be increasing need for FACs to use the air support available.

There are other potential problems with reliance on air support. Political considerations may considerably restrict target selection. It is also possible that, if the loyalists begin to dig in and hold towns, air support to help the rebels assault and take them may not be possible (after all, there are likely to be civilians still in those towns).


All the interesting opportunities for creativity are on the Gov't side.

Medicine Man

What is the significance of this covert finding Obama signed weeks ago? Does it indicate that specialists of some kind have been in Libya without media notice?

The Twisted Genius


Not only is Wheelus in the middle of Tripoli, but the last thing we need is anything that can potentially turn into another enduring base. I think a couple of mike boats ferrying supplies to wherever they're needed along the coast is sufficient.

The Twisted Genius

Medicine Man,

The point of having a Presidential finding authorizing covert action is to keep the whole thing out of the media. The fact that we know about it means somebody screwed up or somebody wants us/the world/Qathafi to know about it for some reason. I don't understand Washington.


TTG, IMHO, this half-*ss non-intervention is just cover so avoid getting what is happening in Bahrain out of the news.

The longer this crisis last, the more time the Saudis have to take care of business.

The Saudis will probably increase oil production to stabilize prices and FoolBama avoids the consequences of high oil prices during an election.

Why would the current administration leak information so quickly and put people in danger on the day Bahrain strips the Shia members of Parliament of their immunity?

Medicine Man

The Twisted Genius:

The optics mystify me as well. What I am mainly interested in is trying to gauge what the US level of involvement is. Does this finding mean that Obama in fact signed off on something like what you and Col Lang have been advocating at the outset?


How do you interdict the MQ mortars?

They are too small and mobile to be gotten from the air?

William R. Cumming

Thanks all for the needed geography lesson on Wheelus.
What was a SAC base doing in Tripoli?


There is no plausible scenario in which the Shia take control of Bahrain in the next 5 years--the whole GCC/US alliance will stop it. And, in 5 years, India will have its amphibious assault ships, so make that 20 years. Stop spreading conspiracy theories.

Yusuf  Al-Misry

TTG..Trying as hard as I could to understand the logic of your great post as I am not a military. One question however, if I understood right it is important to use the depth beyond the coastal road. But I believe some tribes in areas just south of that road particularly south east of Sert are not cooperative with the rebels. Would that have any impact on the proposed LRDG? And should the main focus be Sert? (If sert falls, the psychological impact on Q and his loyals may end the conflict with a deal)

clifford kiracofe

1. "So who let the cat out of the bag about the previously covert operations in Libya? Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington DC, tells us that "the smart money is on Pentagon officials" concerned about mission creep in libya, while also having troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Lives are at stake in an active conflict situation.

A formal investigation by the Justice Dept. and a formal damage assessment by the IC of this leak (a crime) may be in order. Following that, appropriate action against the leaker(s) could be imposed. Such action could include career termination and aggressive criminal prosecution.

2. Does anyone believe there are there any more than 200-300 AQ in all of the Maghreb? The AQ bogeyman is a useful COINist Pentagon meme for the military-industrial-think tank-contractor complex, isn't it?



What was a SAC base doing in Tripoli?
Wheelus Air Base has a long history:
Wheelus Air Base was originally built by the Italian Air Force in 1923 and known as Mellaha Air Base.

Mellaha was used by the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of North Africa ...
It was captured by the British 8th Army in January 1943.
The US Army Air Force began using Mellaha as a base in January 1943.
On 15 April 1945 Mellaha AAF was taken over by USAAF’s Air Training Command. It was renamed Wheelus Army Air Field (AAF) on 17 May 1945 in honor of USAAF Lt Richard Wheelus who had died earlier that year in a plane crash in Iran.

Wheelus AAF was inactivated on 15 May 1947, then reactivated as Wheelus Air Base (Wheelus AB) on 1 June 1948 and transferred to the USAF Military Air Transport Service (MATS)...
... [an] agreement between the United States and Libya, signed in 1954, granted the U.S. the use of Wheelus and its gunnery range until December 1971.
Strategic Air Command use

As the Cold War overtook post-World War II international politics, on 16 November 1950 USAF's Strategic Air Command (SAC) began deploying B-50s, B-36s, B-47s and support aircraft (KB-29, KB-50, and KC-97 tankers) from US air bases to Wheelus. The base became one of several SAC forward operating locations (FOLs) in North Africa, becoming a vital link in SAC war plans for use as a bomber, tanker refueling and recon-fighter base.

Wheelus hosted SAC bomber deployments in 45-day rotational deployments, using Wheelus as a staging area for planned strikes against the Soviet Union.

SAC's use of Wheelus continued until 1970, when as part of the USAF withdrawal from the base, its rotational deployments ended.

Patrick Lang


A lot of you have the idea that these weapons systems are somehow invulnerable. Mortars? you maneuver against them, take them under fire and overrun them. pl


Well, CIA teams are now officially and publicly on the ground, fulfilling precisely the mission described above. Timing is of the essence. Gates is worried about intelligence on major escalation of Taliban operations in Afghanistan as soon as the weather clears. This is the big reason, I'm told, that he was so adament against getting American boots involved in Libya. Today, Libyan foreign minister Mussa Kussa "defected." Is this a Rudolph Hess mission? More of negotiating feeler than a genuine defection. I can't imagine him just going to Tripoli airport and hopping a commercial flight to London overnite, so is this an indication that the psychological rug is being pulled? A question re. the endgame: How does our rebel guerilla force take Tripoli? How much of that is a coalition bombing campaign and how much can our guerilla force actually take the city, if support for Qaddafi holds? I look forward to hearing a reply from our very well-informed guest writer.


At the time SAC aircraft did not have the range to strike the USSR from the US and return. Neither did Soviet aircraft, but hey, this was about defending Europe; and don't forget all the money to be made in the defense industry. (America sure couldn't be soft on communism!) That's the start of the 'military industrial complex', which is allot safer to a run than some industry where an Edsel or two can put the hurt to company earnings.

William R. Cumming

Thanks Confusedponderer! Most of the SAC missions out from Wheelus were schedule as one way based on my information. But hey weather there to land and take off often blue sky.

As to the leak, probably not DoD but the WH the usual source of leaks. Designed to show the President's mettle no doubt. But hey with NATO taking over perhaps there will be no CIA in Libya. My question is why did there even need to be a covert finding? With the NATO takeover let's see what was actually authorized?
What really needs a covert finding is how STATE,
DOD, and the WH interact with each other. We have at least two foreign and military policies but looks to me like in reality three. Remember the Commander-In-Chief role does not include the STATE DEPT.! Even IKE knew that just because the President ordered it even in writing did not necessarily occur. I still would like to see the NIE from last summer released on the stirrings in the ME and Mahgreb.
And if NATO performs well perhaps another chance for US to give up on NATO and spend its time elsewhere.


TamBram, not a conspiracy theory just an observation.

You can not make speeches about "Freedom on the March" and the "Wrong Side of History" and not expect consequences.

People said the same thing about Lebanon once and look at what happened there.

Once Iraq is fully armed and there are no "coalition troops," the Shia of Bahrain will be a better position than you think.

The Twisted Genius

Yusuf Al-Misry ,

From what I understand, the rebels are still actively trying to bring the tribes around to their side. The rebels would probably try to avoid any village that are openly hostile to them. There's plenty of space between these villages to maneuver. I read one news report that the rebels came under fire from the inhabitants of a village on the outskirts of Sirte. Rather than engaging the villagers, the rebels retreated hastily. The rebels will have to figure out their rules of engagement as they go along.

Taking Sirte would have a psychological impact, but I doubt it would end the war. I think it would be better to raid Qathafi's supply lines and rear areas and perhaps even raid as far as Misrata to slowly weaken Qathafi's forces. Rommel thought that victory in this theater was largely dependent which force was better organized. His battles often induced massive tactical confusion in order to take advantage of this belief and his faith in the Afrika Korps' better organization. If he's right, the rebels don't stand a chance unless they can start operating behind Qathafi's lines and start sowing confusion among Qathafi's forces. This will be a close run thing even with NATO air support.

William P. Fitzgerald III

I agree that it sounds like a good plan but, as ever, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip and the devil's in the details, etc. One detail would be leadership. An independent group swanning off into the desert and comprised of 5 vehicles and 20 or so men would require a pretty competent leadership component with credible authority. Without it, I submit that the result would be along the lines of arguing, voting, more arguing, and dismal results. The leadership part would, it seems to me, take a lot more time and training than is called for in the plan.


William R. Cumming

TTG! An "island hopping" strategy?

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