THIS IS DIRECT FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS:
The Pentagon is about to pull its attack planes out of the international air campaign in Libya, hoping Nato partners can take up the slack.
The announcement drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress who wondered aloud why the Obama administration would bow out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s army.
“Odd, troubling and unnerving” were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end on Saturday. “Your timing is exquisite,” Republican Senator John McCain said sarcastically, alluding to Gaddafi’s military advances this week.
Mr Gates and Adm Mullen, in appearances before the House of Representatives and Senate armed services committees, also forcefully argued against putting the US in the role of arming or training Libyan rebel forces, while suggesting it might be a job for Arab or other countries.
The White House has said repeatedly that it has not ruled out arming the rebels, forced to retreat this week under a renewed eastern offensive by Gaddafi’s better-armed and better-trained ground troops.
“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,” Mr Gates said.
Adm Mullen and Mr Gates stressed that even though powerful combat aircraft like the side-firing AC-130 gunship and the A-10 Thunderbolt, used for close air support of friendly ground forces, will stop flying after Saturday, they will be on standby.
Adm Mullen said this means that if the rebels’ situation becomes “dire enough”, Nato’s top commander could request help from the US aircraft.
As of Sunday, France, Britain and other Nato countries will handle the task of conducting air strikes on Libyan military targets, Adm Mullen said. The remaining US role will be support missions such as aerial refuelling, search and rescue, and aerial reconnaissance.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the pullback might jeopardise congressional support for the Libya mission.
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
It has just been announced that a NATO plane which was attacking a munitions convoy has killed seven civilians and injured 25. The seven dead were aged between 12 and 20.
The raid which was in Eastern Libya in the village of Zawia el Argobe hit a truck carrying ammunition. The explosion destroyed two houses.
Perhaps it’s time for NATO and its politicians to stop talking about the needless slaughter of Libyan people.