SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The United States military is considering a mission to train Libyan security personnel with the goal of creating a force of 5,000 to 7,000 conventional soldiers and a separate, smaller unit for specialized counterterrorism missions, according to the top officer at the United States Special Operations Command.
It has not been decided which nations would be involved or where the training would take place, officials said, but the overall mission would be organized by the military’s Africa Command.
Admiral McRaven and other officials noted that the Pentagon’s evolving national security strategy calls for building counterterrorism capabilities among local forces in allied and partner nations, rather than having American troops on the ground to carry out missions.
He acknowledged that there would be some risk in training security forces in a country where militias have shifting ties, and that some who entered the training program might have questionable backgrounds. In particular, he cautioned that it would be difficult to vet fully all Libyan personnel who might be trained by Americans.
“There is probably some risk that some of the people we will be training with do not have the most clean record,” Admiral McRaven said. “At the end of the day, it is the best solution we can find to train them to deal with their own problems.”
North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials say the alliance has sent specialists to Libya to assess how best to run a training program, perhaps in Bulgaria or Italy. American officials said at the forum here that a small number of United States military personnel had also traveled to Libya to assist in the planning.
The United States has a complicated, fragile relationship with the current government in Tripoli, which came to power when the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was overthrown after a NATO air campaign.
American officials say the Libyan government has quietly sought security assistance from the United States, giving tacit approval to two American commando operations in the country: one to capture a senior member of Al Qaeda and another to seize a militia leader suspected of carrying out the attacks on the United States’ diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012.