pace of U.S. and allied airstrikes in Libya should slow in the next few
days, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday. Nathan Hodge has
details from Washington. Plus, Sam Dagher in Tripoli on how people there
are reacting to the air strikes.
A coalition of military powers pounded the
Gadhafi government's military installations for a fourth day and
solidified its control over Libya's skies—even as it continued to
struggle to resolve an internal conflict over how to lead the campaign.
President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy and
British Prime Minister David Cameron to hash out the dispute over how to
organize international enforcement of the no-fly zone, as he and top
U.S. officials called on other leaders to contribute forces to the
On Edge in Libya
Track the latest events in Libya.
Coalition members haven't been able to agree
on whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should take charge of
the mission. France, seen by some diplomats as trying to mend fences
with Arab neighbors while leading the fight to protect Libyan rebels
against the Tripoli regime, has proposed a command structure with NATO
in a subsidiary role.
Washington has made clear it is anxious not to be running another
military intervention in the Middle East. The Obama administration has
indicated it wants to hand over command, preferably to NATO, in coming
days—an objective backed by Britain, Italy, Norway and others. Speaking
in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, on Tuesday just before
ending his Latin American trip, Mr. Obama said the U.S. could cede
"I have absolutely no doubt that we will be able to transfer control
of this operation to an international coalition,'' he said, adding the
campaign will likely continue as long as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi
is in power.
Another looming question is how the U.S. and its partners would
proceed in case of a long military standoff in which the allies succeed
in protecting civilians and rebel forces, but Col. Gadhafi remains in
power. The allied nations have each offered different interpretations of
the campaign's end goals.
Coalition airstrikes continued Tuesday, although at a diminished pace
from the opening blitz of the operation. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, the
head of a U.S. task force based in the Mediterranean, said weekend
airstrikes had halted loyalist forces outside the opposition stronghold
But Col. Gadhafi's forces remained on the
offensive in the cities of Ajdabiya and Misrata. In Misrata, a close-in
siege made it difficult for airstrikes to interfere. A doctor with the
rebel leadership there said the situation was going from "worse to
worst," with power, water and food supplies cut off. Four members of one
family were killed by regime snipers on rooftops, he said.
Government troops "have to pull back" from those cities, Adm.
Locklear warned. If they "stop all attacks against citizens and withdraw
from the places that we've told him to withdraw, establish water,
electricity and gas supplies to all areas and allow humanitarian
assistance, then the fighting would stop," he said. "Our job would be
Col. Gadhafi made a defiant appearance late Tuesday in front of a
clutch of diehard supporters from impoverished Tripoli neighborhoods at
his headquarters in Bab Azizya, two days after allied forces struck a
building there, which caused significant material damage but no
casualties, Libyan officials said.
Late Monday night, the crew of a U.S. Air Force F-15E was forced to
eject over eastern Libya after their aircraft experienced a mechanical
failure. The pilot was rescued by Marines who flew in from a ship in the
Mediterranean, while a second crew member was rescued by Libyan
"opposition forces," according to a military briefing slide. Military
officials said the second crew member was in U.S. hands on Tuesday.
During the rescue operation, U.S. jets dropped two 500-pound bombs in
what a senior Marine officer described as a "precaution" to protect the
downed crew. There was no immediate word about whether the bombs injured
anyone on the ground.
NATO did agree Tuesday to enforce an
arms embargo, but not on its role in the no-fly zone. So far, the Libya
operations have been led by U.S. Adm. Locklear, coordinating with
military commanders of France, Britain and the other armed forces
France, which recently rejoined NATO's
military command structure after more than 30 years, insisted it
doesn't want to give the organization a central command-and-control
role. French officials have said Arab countries are against NATO
involvement, and that the current command structure is working fine.
Other diplomats said the Arab League doesn't
object to NATO's role. They are also concerned that the operation is
taking big risks already by not having a unified command. Some officials
described it as being barely coordinated on Saturday when French jets
launched attacks in Libya hours ahead of allies.
In Paris on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé proposed a
new political steering committee to oversee military operations over
Libya. The new body would include foreign ministers of participating
states, such as Britain, France and the U.S., as well as the Arab
"For us, this operation is carried out by a coalition," Mr. Juppé
told the French National Assembly, the lower house of the country's
parliament. "So it's not a NATO operation."
Turkey, another NATO member, has expressed strong reservations about
the no-fly zone. But several diplomats said they expected Ankara would
eventually agree to NATO participation, subject to conditions.
Moammar Gadhafi's Libya
See some key dates in Col. Gadhafi's nearly 42-year reign.
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On the Ground in Libya
Battle for Benghazi
A senior U.S.
official said the Obama administration was still cobbling together a
command structure for the Libya operations. The official said the U.S.
expects NATO to be central, but also believes Muslim countriessuch as
Turkey and Qatar will play a larger part. "NATO obviously has a key role
here," said the official. "But that's part of a broader effort and
that's not to say it's NATO only."
The U.S. has sought participation by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates, which have among the region's most modern militaries, largely
equipped with U.S.-made equipment. So far, though, both Arab countries
have declined to participate militarily, despite the support that their
own regional bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, has expressed for the
intervention. Only Qatar among the six GCC nations is sending jets.
The U.A.E., which had led Arab nations' calls for allied military
action, surprised coalition members by holding back from deploying its
own aircraft. The former commander of its airforce said Tuesday that was
because of dissatisfaction with U.S. and European complaints about
regime violence against protesters in its ally Bahrain.
The U.S. official said discussions with Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.
continued. Vice President Joe Biden spoke Tuesday with Emirati Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Zayid al Nahyan. "I don't think we've seen the final
answer on the exact role" of these countries, the official said.
South Africa and China criticized the allied airstrikes over Libyan
claims of civlian casualties, which U.S. officials denied. U.S. Defense
Secretary Robert Gates said the pace of airstrikes should decline in the
next few days and cautioned against believing what he called Col.
Gadhafi's "outright lies."
Allied attacks Monday night hit
shipyards in Tripoli and al-Khums, about 80 miles east of the capital,
that were being used to store surface-to-surface missiles and missile
launchers and carriers, according to Libyan military officers.
The strikes left hangar facilities
smoldering, with white smoke rising above what looked to be a working
plant. Armed militia members loyal to Col. Gadhafi shooed away cars
filled with residents who stopped Tuesday to gape at the destruction
caused by the bombs.
Two other hangars at the Tripoli
shipyard, used for repairing electrical and mechanical equipment and
parts for the Libyan fleet, were hit in the same strikes, causing
significant damage and leaving behind two deep craters in the middle of
"What does this have to do with protecting civilians?" said an angry Libyan government official at the scene.