Allied strikes halt Qaddafi forces. But what is success in Libya?
The initial coalition air attacks have halted the pro-Qaddafi forces' march on Benghazi, a US general says, but the goals and parameters of the Libya intervention are still unclear.
The initial air attacks against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces have “succeeded” in stopping their advancement towards the key rebel-held city of Benghazi, the US mission’s top commander said Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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What’s more, pro-Qaddafi ground forces that were once in the vicinity of Benghazi, in eastern Libya, “now possess little will” to continue to fight, said Gen. Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command and the US-led joint mission’s current commander, at a briefing with Pentagon reporters.
This represents some measure of psychological victory for which top Pentagon officials were hoping when the operation began: that many of Mr. Qaddafi’s forces would stop fighting or abandon their commander-in-chief. Yet Qaddafi’s troops have proven organized and determined in the past, and military officials say they are carefully monitoring developments on the ground even as operations continue.
The Pentagon is wrestling, too, with a number of tricky questions surrounding the United Nations Security Council resolution, which authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya and the use of force to protect civilians from attack by the regime. Can rebel forces be considered civilians, for example? Does protecting civilians necessarily mean removing Qaddafi from power – particularly, some add, given his propensity to retaliate against his people? And how best to protect civilians when the pro-Qaddafi troops are in urban areas and bombing them might mean harming innocent people?
Even as the US military seeks answers to these questions, they are now focused on extending the current no-fly zone southward, then westward, Ham said. To that end, the US military on Monday fired 12 Tomahawk missiles aimed at Qaddafi’s command-and-control centers. They plan to extend the no-fly zone to Misrata and then to Tripoli, creating an area that is approximately 1,000 miles wide, Gen. Ham said.