US and European troops participated in the invasion of Tripoli and are still stationed there, according to an intercepted telephone call between officials of Libya’s National Transitional Council, the body purporting to represent NATO-allied rebels in the Libyan civil war.
The call also reveals the existence of mass graves in or near Misurata which, one of the rebels says, “we are not supposed to talk about.”
Released to YouTube by anonymous hackers calling themselves “OpFreeLibya,” the recorded conversation reflects simmering tensions between the Benghazi-based rebel leadership and the Misurata Brigade, a locally-based anti-Gaddafi militia that NTC leaders are trying to incorporate into a single Libyan National Army with a unified command structure.
The conversation, which is highly emotional and often confrontational, purports to be a recent telephone call between a high-ranking officer of the Misurata Brigade and the NTC’s military spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Bani (see summary translation supplied by @luzbek: justpaste.it/luzbek). While it is impossible to verify its authenticity, Arabic speakers say the conversation appears spontaneous and is highly credible by virtue of its level of detail and urgent tone.
The callers openly acknowledge the presence of NATO soldiers on the battlefield. At one point the unidentified Misurati commander assures Col. Bani that the US and French military are “very well informed about the situation on the ground, since they are with them on the ground.”
Western soldiers were present in Tripoli during the assault, and are still stationed there, the commander says. Additionally, he says, his own brigade includes a foreign intelligence group of 12 US spec ops and six French intelligence operatives.
The presence of embedded Western soldiers is a violation of UN resolutions authorizing action against Gaddafi and contradicts numerous statements by US and NATO officials that there are no foreign “boots on the ground” in Libya.
The call also reflects a dispute over the provision of money, mercenaries, and weapons from Qatar, similarly illegal under the UN Libya resolutions. “Where are the weapons from Qatar, where are the troops when we need them?” the Misurati commander demands.
The disclosure of mass graves seems to relate to the aftermath of the battle of Misurata, a decisive rebel victory that took place in May. In this context, the graves presumably contain the corpses of government soldiers, although the Misurata Brigade is also widely believed to be responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha, where thousands of civilians disappeared.
“In Misurata, there are mass graves of Gaddafi soldiers, but we are not supposed to talk about it,” the Misurati commander says.
At times choked with fury, the Misurati commander reproaches Col. Bani for the incompetence of Benghazi troops and what he sees as empty posturing by NATO politicians and NTC officers.
“Your so-called National Army was totally crushed at Dafniya by Gaddafi troops,” he says. “Where is your National Army in Sirte? Are you talking about those waiting outside parading for TV and photographs? Stop acting like Sarkozy parading while the war is still ongoing in the country.”
For his part, Col. Bani repeatedly emphasizes the importance of presenting a united front before NATO allies, saying that NTC’s internal disputes must not be aired before the world.
“The world is fearing a guerilla situation in Libya, [involving] Al Qaeda and fratricidal fights between the different factions,” Col. Bani says. Yet the tenor and content of this heated exchange offers little comfort to those hoping for a peaceful reconciliation of the NTC’s increasingly hostile factions.
Jacob Levich, who lives in New York City, has written for MRZine on military issues and tweets as @cordeliers. He is indebted for translation and guidance to @luzbek, who lives in France and tweets with great acuity about Libya and imperialism.