Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Qatar Admits It Had Boots on Ground in Libya

DOHA - Qatar revealed for the first time Oct. 26 that hundreds of its soldiers had joined Libyan rebel forces on the ground as they battled troops of veteran leader Moammar Gadhafi.
"We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region," said Qatari chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali Al-Atiya.
The announcement marks the first time that Qatar has acknowledged it had military boots on the ground in Libya.
Previously, the country said it had only lent the support of its air force to NATO-led operations to protect civilians during the eight-month uprising, which ended when Gadhafi was captured and killed last week.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of military allies of Libya's National Transitional Council, Atiya said the Qataris had been "running the training and communication operations."
"Qatar had supervised the rebels' plans because they are civilians and did not have enough military experience. We acted as the link between the rebels and NATO forces," he said.
Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told the meeting that Qatar had been "a major partner in all the battles we fought."
He added that the Qataris had "planned" the battles which paved the way for NTC fighters to gradually take over Gadhafi-held towns and cities.
Atiya also said that after the departure of NATO troops, a new international coalition led by Qatar would oversee "military training, collecting weapons, and integrating the rebels in newly established military institutions."
The coalition, named as the "Friends Committee in Support of Libya" and which held its first meeting in Doha on Oct. 26, is made up of 13 countries including the U.S., Britain and France, Atiya said.
Abdel Jalil, meanwhile, urged NATO to continue its Libya campaign until year's end, saying Gadhafi loyalists still posed a threat to the country.

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