American military forces have been hurling missiles at Gadhafi’s air-defense systems for the past 48 hours to prepare the region for enforcement of a no-fly zone. The airstrikes effectively destabilized Gadhafi’s control over the Libyan airspace, knocking out dozens of his longer-range air defense missiles and early-warning radar sites, according to the Pentagon.
But Gadhafi has refused to loosen his grip over the region — and as Obama prepares to pare down U.S. involvement, few nations are clamoring to take the lead.
NATO officials clashed at a meeting in Brussels on Monday over which nations should pilot the no-fly zone.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO should pick up the reins, but French officials argued that the Arab League is opposed to a NATO-led operation.
“The Arab League does not wish the operation to be entirely placed under NATO responsibility. It isn’t NATO which has taken the initiative up to now,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
The Arab League scaled back its support of military efforts in Libya after dozens of civilians were caught in the crossfire of weekend airstrikes.
“The law of unintended consequences is playing out right now,” said retired Navy Capt. Chuck Nash. The U.S. ignited the fray, and it’s now the only country capable of picking up the pieces, he said.
“We have kicked open a can,” he said. “Not kicked it down the road, but kicked it open and there are worms in that can. … We have no idea what follows this.”
Meanwhile, concern is growing over a possible stalemate between Gadhafi, who has control of Tripoli and parts of western Libya, and the poorly organized rebels in the east.
“Gadhafi is now in a very commanding position that should allow him, absent some internal event in Tripoli within his own ruling group, to remain in power,” said Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department’s Middle East intelligence office. “I think [the U.S.] will be largely stuck with a stalemate, and a long patrolling action, much like in Iraq — where they can’t really do much about it.”
Obama was, however, unwavering in his assertion that the U.S. will no longer lead the attacks in Libya.
“Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the [United Nations] Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Col. Gadhafi to his people,” he said.
The president reiterated that the U.S. is not seeking the ouster of Gadhafi before retreating from the region, but noted it is still “U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go.”
Obama said he is reviewing other actions — outside of the Security Council resolution — that could ultimately squeeze Gadhafi out of power, though he didn’t specify what that could include beyond economic sanctions the U.S. has already imposed.
By Hayley Peterson washingtonexaminer.com/