Mr. Qaddafi certainly hasn’t relinquished power, and remains in control of some loyalist troops, though these forces continue to dwindle to a “significantly smaller number of regime loyalists,” General Ham says.
Despite some debate about whether this fact makes him a legitimate military target, the US military has no intention of trying to deliberately kill him, Ham stresses. “It seems to me that his ability to influence day-to-day activities has largely been eliminated. Probably not completely eliminated – but pretty significantly.”
But troops have no intention of sparing his life on purpose if he happens to be near a facility that US or NATO forces were planning to strike. “If we had some indication that [Qaddafi] was present at this facility, it wouldn’t have a significant impact on our decision to strike or not strike,” Ham says.
What’s more, there are opportunity costs to waging a military manhunt, Ham adds, even as Qaddafi remains at large. “My sense as a military guy is that the level of resources necessary to find and focus ... and try to target him would be considerable,” he says. “To look for an individual is a really complicated business and it would detract very significantly from the other military requirements that we are trying to meet.”