At war in Libya: How long will it last? Will Qaddafi be gone?

With US bombs and missiles hitting Libyan targets, lawmakers and other observers want to know how long the fighting will continue and whether Muammar Qaddafi will be forced from power.

By , Staff Writer

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    Libyan rebels drive past a burning tank and other military vehicles of Muammar Qaddafi’s army that were hit by coalition forces on the road from Benghazi to Ajdabiyah on Sunday, March 20.
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As the US-led attack on Libyan targets approached its third day, lawmakers and other observers began to weigh in on the wisdom and timing of the attempt to stop Muammar Qaddafi’s army from attacking civilians and decimating rebel forces.

On Sunday talk shows, the comments ranged from “too little, too late” to concerns about what any endgame might be as the US engages in a third war in Muslim countries.

Senator John McCain (R) says President Obama “waited too long” before taking military action against Qaddafi. And he suggested that the delay means the job will be harder.

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"If we had taken this step a couple of weeks ago, a no-fly zone would probably have been enough," Sen. McCain said on CNN’s State of the Union. "Now, a no-fly zone is not enough. There needs to be other efforts made."

Senator Richard Lugar, senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, wonders "who it is in Libya that we're trying to support."

"Obviously, the people who are against Qaddafi, but who?” Sen. Lugar asked on CBS' Face the Nation. “In eastern Libya, for example, a huge number of people went off to help the Iraqis against the United States in a war that still is winding down.”

At this point, US officials aren’t saying when the coalition fighting Qaddafi’s forces in Libya might be able to pull back from the air and sea assaults.

"I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said on ABC's This Week. ''I wouldn't speculate in terms of length at this particular point in time."

Asked if the fighting might end with Qaddafi still in place, Admiral Mullen said, "That's certainly potentially one outcome."

US policy at this point is that the military action in Libya is about protecting people and not regime change.

But that is not enough, according to some critics of the Obama administration’s limited approach there.

"We should isolate this regime," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) told Fox News Sunday. "This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who is not a legitimate leader, who is an international crook. And we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talk about how limited we will be."

"Once the president of the United States says, as President Obama did, that Qaddafi must go, if we don't work with our allies to make sure Qaddafi does go, America's credibility and prestige suffers all over the world," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) told CNN.

Leaving Qaddafi in power can never solve the problem, says Ali Suleiman Aujali, who was Libya’s UN ambassador before he denounced Qaddafi and became a prominent figure in the opposition.

"Protection of Libyan civilians is only achieved by one goal, that Qaddafi is not there, not only by stopping his airplanes striking the people,” Mr. Aujali told ABC's This Week. “The danger is Qaddafi himself.”

In pushing for UN approval of a no-fly zone, the US and other western nations felt free to do so because the 22-member Arab League had first backed the effort.

But on Sunday, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the missile strikes and aerial bombing had gone too far.

“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said in a statement on the official Middle East News Agency. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.”

Mr. Moussa, along with officials from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Qatar, and Morocco took part in the Paris summit Saturday where the US and its western coalition partners met to discuss imposition of the no-fly zone (which began just hours later).

But so far, only tiny Qatar has agreed to commit military forces in the fight against Qaddafi.

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