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Monday, April 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Gates shocks Congress on U.S. exit from Libya

WASHINGTON — The United States, regarded as the leader of the effort to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi, has withdrawn combat support from NATO's no-fly zone over Libya.


The administration of President Barack Obama said the U.S. military would remove its air fleet from the NATO mission. The announcement by the Defense Department on March 31 stunned Congress, which was debating U.S. participation in what House and Senate members warned would be an open-ended operation.

"My view would be, if there is going to be that kind of assistance to the opposition, there are plenty of sources for it other than the United States," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

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In testimony to Congress, Gates said combat aircraft was scheduled to leave the Libyan theatre on April 2, Middle East Newsline reported. Both Gates and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen said Washington would also not equip or train Libyan rebels but would rather provide such support as aerial refueling, search and rescue and aerial reconnaissance.

"Your timing is exquisite," Sen. John McCain, one of the few congressional leaders who supported U.S. participation, said. "At a time when the Gadhafi forces have literally, tragically, routed the anti-Gadhafi forces, that's when we announced that the United States was abdicating its leadership role and is removing some of the most valuable assets that could be used to great effect."

The Pentagon said the U.S. military would maintain an unspecified number of aircraft on standby for the NATO mission. Most NATO members have already contributed aircraft for the no-fly zone.

The U.S. pullout came as Obama said he would not rule out equipping the Libyan rebels. The president, in opposition to U.S. military chiefs, said the NATO mission must lead to the toppling of Gadhafi.

But in late March, Mullen and other U.S. military chiefs acknowledged that U.S. aircraft and missile attacks had failed to significantly erode Gadhafi's forces. They said Gadhafi's military could have lost as much as 25 percent of its combat platforms, but outnumbered the rebels by 10-to-one.

The rebels were believed to have no more than 1,000 trained soldiers, defectors from the Libyan Army. Officials said the Libyan rebel movement was divided and some elements have offered a truce with Gadhafi.

Members of Congress said the House and Senate would reconsider the U.S. participation in the entire NATO mission. They said the absence of U.S. combat aircraft would not be compensated by other NATO members, including Britain and France.

"The idea that the AC-130s and the A-10s and American air power is grounded unless the place goes to hell is just so unnerving that I can't express it adequately," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said. "The only thing I would ask is, please reconsider that."


Yes, to pull away is the right move but it doesn't cure the errors in the beginning. There should never have been and invasion as such. We should have used the United Nations, as we used to do, for peace keeping.

R Petersmith      12:59 p.m. / Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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