US Ending Its Air Combat Role in Libya
Gates says US ending its air combat role in Libya, leaving the heavy lifting to allies
The Associated Press
By ROBERT BURNS AP National Security Writer
WASHINGTON April 1, 2011 (AP)
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 Thursday 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 Moammar Gadhafi's army.
"Odd," ''troubling" and "unnerving" were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end Saturday.
"Your timing is exquisite," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said sarcastically, alluding to Gadhafi's military advances this week.
Gates and Mullen, in back-to-back appearances before the House and Senate armed services committees, also forcefully argued against putting the U.S. 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, who have retreated pell-mell this week under the pressure of a renewed eastern offensive by Gadhafi'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," Gates said.
The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he saw no contradiction between Gates' remarks and President Barack Obama's statement that "he has not ruled it in or out." As yet, none of Obama's top advisers have publicly advocated a significant expansion of the U.S. role aiding the opposition.
Gates and Mullen were early skeptics of getting involved militarily in Libya, and Gates made clear Thursday that he still worries about the possibility of getting drawn into an open-ended and costly commitment. That explains in part his view that if the rebels are to receive foreign arms, that task — and the training that would necessarily go with it — should not be done by Americans.
CIA Coming to Rebels' Aid in Libya
Secret directive from Obama might allow U.S. to arm rebel forces.
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