The top United States commander of military forces in Europe says the intelligence information he has seen leads him to believe Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi may be plotting new terrorist plans. Colonel Qaddafi has been quiet in the wake of this spring's US bombing raids against his country, says Gen. Bernard Rogers, Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. But he adds, ``I think there is credible evidence that Qaddafi is now coming into that second or third phase of his usual recovery from attacks against him.''
This means that the Libyan leader may now be ``putting the word out'' to his operatives ``to start again,'' says General Rogers, who from his headquarters in Belgium commands not only all NATO forces in Europe, but all US forces in Europe and Africa.
The general says he has been sufficiently influenced by the information made available to him to make the people under his command aware they must be very prudent in their activities. Questioned at a breakfast for defense reporters, Rogers said he was speaking for himself and did not reflect an official US government viewpoint.
In recent days there has been some movement of forces that could be used to strike Libya. An extra contingent of 18 F-111 fighter/bombers has been dispatched to bases in England. Two aircraft carriers, the John F. Kennedy and the America, have converged near the Atlantic entrance to the Mediterranean. A third carrier, the Forrestal, is in the eastern Mediterranean.
Rogers says the military movements are purely coincidental. But he adds that the US should make an effort to keep Qaddafi worried and off balance. ``The F-111s have nothing to do with what's going on in the Mediterranean,'' he says. ``But if [Qaddafi] thinks it's related, so much the better.''
It should be driven home to the Libyan leader that he is never beyond the reach of US might, according to Rogers. He suggested that a graphic demonstration of such reach might be made by B-52 bombers, which could hit Libya directly from bases in the US. If Qaddafi foments more terrorism against Americans, and the US has hard proof of the act, a military strike might well be a necessity, suggested the NATO chief. He says, ``If those conditions pertain again we need to strike again. Otherwise, why did we strike the first time?''
Rogers says, however, that if he were Colonel Qaddafi, his first concern would not necessarily be the US threat, but internal opposition. ``If I were in his shoes, I would be concerned about whether or not I remained in control of the country.''