20:44 ET: More details are coming out about Obama’s secret orders, including a “decline to comment” out of the White House.
CIA operatives have been working in Libya along with MI6 agents and other spies to gather information for use in airstrikes. They are also finding out details about the rebels who may come to power after Qaddafi. They claim not to be directing rebel actions, according to the NYT.
Obama signed an order several weeks ago authorizing the CIA to provide arms and other support to the rebels. Supposedly they have not supplied arms yet.
This news comes after a day of the rebels getting routed.
EARLIER: Qaddafi recaptured Brega, the site of another key refinery, in the early evening, according to The Guardian’s Chris McGreal. Now his troops are pushing toward Ajdabiya.
At this rate Qaddafi will be at the gates of Benghazi again soon. Coalition involvement would be forced to increase drastically.
Reuters describes the rout:
Cars carrying families and their belongings streamed out of Ajdabiya towards the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. In town after town, Qaddafi force’s have unleashed a fierce bombardment from tanks, artillery and truck-launched Grad rockets which has usually forced rebels to swiftly flee. “These are our weapons,” said rebel fighter Mohammed, pointing to his assault rifle. “We can’t fight Grads with them,” he said earlier before joining the rush away from the front.
Warplanes “buzzed” fighting near Ras Lanuf but have not fired on Qaddafi’s troops, according to the AP. It will be controversial if they intervene directly.
Rebels also retreated yesterday from the port city of Bin Jawad and lost control of the western city of Misrata.
Qaddafi’s counterattack has been faster and more effective than expected.
Earlier this week it seemed like the rebels were winning, as government soldiers retreated, leaving cities and supply stores uncontested. This was seen as a sign that tactical airstrikes had turned the tables in battle. Oil prices had slipped on news that rebels would sell oil to Qatar, which would facilitate sales on the open market.
But they won’t be selling oil from Ras Lanuf.
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