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U.S. back on the 'shores of Tripoli'

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 9/14/2011, 6:48 p.m.

Doubt remains over the actual whereabouts of Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi now that the rebels are at the door of the few existing strongholds of Libya's former leader. Rumors have him in several African nations, including Algeria and Niger, where so many Libyans have recently fled.

Gaddafi may be missing in action, but the U.S. military is very much present in Libya again, as it has been since U.S. Marines began subduing Barbary Coast pirates in the 1800s.

For many of the seven months since NATO forces began pounding the "shores of Tripoli," recalling the Marine fight song, the United States has been a key player. President Barack Obama, without approval from Congress, committed U.S. materiel to air strikes against Gaddafi loyalists under the pretext of "humanitarian intervention," to protect Libyan citizens, who were claimed to be set for slaughter.

Having helped enforce a no-fly zone in Libya and virtually eliminating Gaddafi's air power, Obama presumably took a step back from the turmoil, choosing "to lead from behind."

Back in March, a contingent of Marines was in Libya to rescue a pilot who ejected during a NATO air strike.

Thankfully, as far as we can discern from this distant vantage point, no U.S. troops are in Libya, though some insist CIA operatives were (and are) definitely on the ground, providing guidance and intelligence for the insurgents.

There is, however, no need to speculate about the U.S. diplomatic corps and military advisors, which, given the topsy-turvy relations between the United States and Libya, are poised to take up residence again in Tripoli.

According to a Pentagon spokesperson, a military team arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday to survey the scene and determine if conditions are secure enough to reopen the U.S. Embassy.

The conflict has apparently subsided considerably in Tripoli, though rebel forces are still battling with small groups of loyalists, particularly in Bani Walid and Sirte, two Gaddafi bastions.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International released a report stating that the rebels had committed unlawful atrocities, torturing and killing members of the opposing force. However, the report indicated that Gaddafi's loyalists were guilty of committing human rights abuses and violations as well.

According to the National Transitional Council, the interim government in Libya, the abuses committed by the anti-Gaddafi rebels were small compared to those perpetrated by Gaddafi's loyalists. Regardless, the council condemned both sides for the violations, claiming it is "firmly committed to upholding human rights and the rule of law, both international and local. The violation of rights no longer has a place in Libya."

What appears to be desperately needed is the presence of a neutral force to oversee the surrendering of weapons and a stability of peace.