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US gearing up for a possible attack in Libya, says report

October 03, 2012 10:43 IST
The United States defence and intelligence agencies are preparing the groundwork for operations to kill or capture terrorists responsible for the attack on its mission in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi resulting in death of four Americans including its Ambassador.

Such an attack is subject to approval by President Barack Obama and would be taken only in consultation with the Libyan Government, multiple media reports said on Wednesday, adding that the potential attacks might include drone attacks or the one like that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects," the officials said.

"Working with the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, the command is preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from President Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the attack on its diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed Ambassador J Christopher Stevens and three colleagues three weeks ago," The New York Times reported.

However, a spokesmen for the defense department and CIA declined to comment on the matter. A senior American official told the CNN that US would likely seek cooperation from Libya before launching any military strike.

The official offered repeated caution about the effort, while acknowledging that 'options are being teed up'. He said, "I don't think that a final list of who was involved is solid."

"Any early list of targets or personnel is part of standard target planning and is highly pre-decisional, noting that the president would have to decide whether to launch a strike," CNN quoted the official as saying.

The NYT cautioned that any American military action on Libyan soil would risk casualties and almost certainly set off a popular backlash at a moment when gratitude for American support in the revolt against Col Muammar Gaddafi.

This has created a measure of appreciation for the US in the region. According to the CNN, the senior US official repeatedly noted the standard job of the intelligence community and the military is to prepare options for the president if he asks for them, which he has not.

"The current effort involves assembling so-called 'target packages'. A target package includes the intelligence matched to a specific site earmarked for a potential strike. It also includes intelligence justifying a potential strike against any enemy personnel being targeted and a specific calculation on how civilian casualties would be avoided," CNN said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington