US to begin drone strikes in Libya
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates rejected concerns of mission creep, saying the US mission in Libya always left room for actions such as drone strikes.
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The US announced it will begin using armed drones against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, raising further concerns about "mission creep" in Libya after a trio of European powers also decided this week to send military advisers to train the rebels. Sen. John McCain called the rebels "heroes" on a surprise visit to Benghazi today.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Thursday evening that President Obama had approved the use of drones for strikes against Col. Qaddafi's forces and defense positions. The announcement marks the United States' return to a direct combat role in the Libyan conflict, which had ceased when the US handed control of Libya operations to NATO in early April, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Earlier this week, Britain, France, and Italy all announced they would send military officials into Libya to advise the rebel forces. That and the US decision to launch drone strikes – drones were already operating in the area, but only for surveillance, according to CNN – have many in the US and Europe concerned that their countries will eventually drift into an active role on the ground in Libya.
But Secretary Gates rejected concerns of mission creep, saying the US mission in Libya defined by Obama always left room for something like this, CNN reported. "The president has said where we have unique capabilities, he is willing to use those," Gates said Thursday. The drones, which can fly lower, will allow for more precise targeting of airstrikes and will augment NATO strikes already taking place.
"It's very difficult to identify friend from foe," Cartwright said, noting that the drones facilitate identification of individuals on the ground.