WASHINGTON (AP) — A small team of soldiers will go into Libya in the coming weeks to begin preparations for a larger U.S. mission to train Libyan troops in Bulgaria, a senior Army official said Wednesday.
According to the official, fewer than a dozen soldiers will go to Tripoli but that number could grow as the group begins selecting the Libyan troops who will receive U.S. training. About 500 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division will train 5,000 to 8,000 Libyan forces in basic combat skills as part of a larger international effort to improve security in the North African nation.
The training was announced late last year, but sending a team into Libya was not. The team initially will be working with the Libyans to determine the scope and details of the training.
The official said that as time goes on and the effort to select the Libyan troops expands, some additional soldiers could go to Tripoli to provide security for the team.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter by name.
Officials are waiting on final approval for the team to go to Tripoli. And the training will not begin until Libya approves the funding needed for the mission. That approval could happen sometime next month.
There are ongoing concerns about the rise of a number of militias in Libya, as the nation's weak government struggles to take control in the aftermath of the ouster and death of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.