A team of about 10 American officials working for the US embassy in Tripoli recently visited a paramilitary base in Benghazi to interview potential recruits for what has been described as ‘Libya special operations force’.
Despite the sensitivity of the matter as to the sovereignty of the country, local media and the National Congress have not mentioned or debated the issue.
Fathi al-Obeidi, a commander of one of the armed groups in Benghazi and whose base was visited by the American officials, has been reported telling Reuters that "the American team asked us for a tour of our base and we granted them permission to walk around freely.”
"They stood with many of our men taking down information. They asked them about their ages, backgrounds, their tribal loyalties. They wanted to know what kind of training they had received, if any," he added.
According to the news agency, the Pentagon declined comment on any recent visit by a US delegation to Benghazi, referring queries to the State Department.
But according to reports, the Pentagon has acknowledged a ‘need to develop Libyan special operations forces’ and a final decision on the programme is yet to be made.
The Pentagon not the Libyan government is to decide many details related to the ‘Libya special operations force’ including its ultimate size, composition and also its mission.
Obeidi said that the Americans would train Libyans from all over the country to become "the seeds of the new Libyan army". He added that the interviewers took note of the types of uniforms the men in his camp were wearing and asked about these men’s opinions on security in Libya.
Without mentioning any names, he said that the team of American officials included the future head trainer of the Libyan special forces team.
"I've been asked to help pick about 400 of these young men between the ages of 19 and 25 to train for this force," Obeidi added. "They could be trained either in Libya or abroad."
The Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory told Reuters that US officials in Libya would work with Libyans "to assess their needs and develop options for ways the US can support them through this transitional period." He added that “obviously, this is still a fluid environment and everything can change.''