Ground troops in Libya weighedIn what is described as a stalemate, Gadhafi's tactics are making airstrikes more difficult
April 8, 2011
WASHINGTON • The U.S. may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, the former U.S. commander of the military mission said Thursday, describing the ongoing operation as a stalemate.
But Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers that American participation in a ground force would not be ideal, because it could erode the international coalition attacking Moammar Gadhafi's forces and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.
He said NATO has done an effective job in an increasingly complex combat situation. But he noted that, in a new tactic, Gadhafi's forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging their fighters and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques.
The use of an international ground force is a possible plan to bolster the Libyan rebels, Ham said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Asked whether the U.S. would provide troops, Ham said, "I suspect there might be some consideration of that."
President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that the U.S. would place no troops on the ground in Libya, although reports have surfaced of small CIA teams in the country.
Pressed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ham agreed that a stalemate "is now more likely" since NATO took command.
Ham also disclosed that the U.S. is providing some strike aircraft to the NATO operation that do not need to go through the special approval process recently established.
His answer countered earlier claims by the Pentagon that all strike aircraft must be requested through U.S. European Command and approved by top U.S. leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Ham said that process still applies to other fighters and the A-10 Thunderbolt, which can provide close air support for ground forces. He said that process is quick, and other defense officials have said it can take about a day for the U.S. to approve the request and move the aircraft in from bases in Europe.
Overall, he said the U.S. is providing less than 15 percent of the airstrikes and between 60 percent and 70 percent of the support effort, which includes intelligence gathering, surveillance, electronic warfare and refueling.
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