US Defense Chief Says Political, Economic Pressure Will Oust Gadhafi

Published on Thursday 31st March 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says political and economic pressures will eventually drive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power.Gates said the NATO-led operation under way can degrade Mr. Gadhafi's military capacity enough to force him and his supporters into a "very different set of choices and behaviors."   But he said the removal of the leader will happen over time, through political and economic measures, and by his own people.Gates told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that with NATO assuming command of enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya the U.S. military will "significantly ramp down" its operations. He said American armed forces would engage in electronic warfare, refuel fighter jets, provide intelligence support and perform other missions. The Pentagon chief described the U.S. military involvement in the group of 20 nations engaged in the military operation against Mr. Gadhafi as a "limited one and does not include regime change." He said the U.S. would not have "an active part in the strike activities," but said Mr. Gadhafi's removal would be "welcome."He said no one can predict "how long it will take for that to happen."U.S. media reports say that the CIA has sent teams into Libya to gather intelligence and make contact with anti-Gadhafi forces. Gates said he could not "speak for the CIA" on its role. He acknowledged that the U.S. only has information "on a handful of rebels" trying to topple Mr. Gadhafi. Gates appeared before the congressional panel with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff. The admiral said there are 25 warships stationed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya and that 220 aircraft are involved in patrolling the Libyan skies.But Mullen warned that Mr. Gadhafi "still possesses substantial military capability" compared to the poorly equipped, anti-government rebel forces trying to overthrow him.Republicans as well as members of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party said the president and other administration officials did not significantly consult with Congress before joining other nations in imposing the United Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone.  One lawmaker, Michael Turner, a Republican, said he doubted that if the U.S. mission in Libya were put to a vote that Congress would support it.  Mullen assured the panel that the U.S. military involvement in Libya would be "significantly reduced starting today."
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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