First Published: 2011-03-23

 

War without end: US sees no 'timeline' for Libya operation

 

US Defence Secretary says outcome of Libya conflict remains unclear, to last longer than weeks.

 

Middle East Online

Anything-goes type of war

CAIRO - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday there was no "timeline" for when UN-backed military operations in Libya would end, and that the outcome of the conflict remained unclear.

Speaking during a visit to Cairo, Gates said the UN Security Council resolution that authorised a no-fly zone was "not time-limited" and that it was unrealistic to expect military action to be over in a matter of weeks.

"So I think that there is no current timeline in terms of when it might end," Gates told reporters.

The military intervention was designed to prevent Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi from using aircraft to attack civilians and supply his forces, and coalition forces would monitor the effect of the strikes, he said.

"I think we will be assessing this as we go along, in terms of when his capabilities to do those things to his people have been eliminated.

"But I think no one was under any illusions that this would be an operation that would last one week, or two weeks, or three weeks."

The Pentagon chief also said it was difficult to gauge the strength of opposition forces because they had grown out of popular uprisings.

"I think it's been very hard for us to assess that frankly," he said when asked about the effectiveness of the rebels.

In the unrest that had erupted before international military action, Gates said "it wasn't as though you had an alternative army moving back and forth across Libya."

Some who had initially joined the uprisings, including troops from military bases, appeared to have withdrawn in the face of the regime's crackdown, he said.

But the Western air strikes might bring them back into the fray, said Gates.

"A lot of people who were in opposition, who played a role in the early days, have hunkered down.

"And it may be that changed circumstances, where he (Gathafi) can't use his aircraft and where he's more challenged in using his armour, they return to the fight. But we just don't know that."

Gates said the outcome of the conflict remained unclear, and that it was possible that more figures in Gathafi's regime could turn against him or even members of his own family.

"I think there are any number of possible outcomes here and no one is in a position to predict them," he said.

Possible scenarios included "further defections within his own ruling circle" or "divisions within his family."

His comments came on the fifth day of UN-backed military strikes against the Libyan regime as Gathafi vowed his country was "ready for battle."

Early Wednesday, CNN reported coalition air strikes were launched overnight near the city of Misrata, east of Tripoli.

Rebels said they had been under intense attack in their Misrata enclave, which has been besieged by Gathafi forces for weeks.

President Barack Obama faced fierce criticism over the US role in Libya.

Under pressure to bring US military strikes to a quick conclusion, Obama assured Univision television Tuesday that "the exit strategy will be executed this week" -- but made clear US forces would not really "exit" the conflict.

"We will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment. We will still be in a support role, we'll still be providing jamming, and intelligence and other assets that are unique to us," he said.

"We put in place strong international sanctions. We've frozen his assets. We will continue to ply a whole range of pressure on him," he added.

 

Egypt delays Gaza talks after Israeli soldier kidnap

Libya jihadists declare Benghazi ‘Islamic emirate’

Morocco king deplores unequal wealth distribution

US plans largest ever sale of lethal missiles to Iraq

Qatar invests in Israeli soccer

Lebanon suspends work permits for Ebola-hit countries

Emirates Airline suspends flights to Guinea

Baghdad bomb blasts kill at least ten

Identification of Air Algerie crash victims ‘could take years’

Philippines prepares to evacuate 13,000 citizens from Libya

Jihadists fight on more than one front in Syria

Sudan Christian woman chooses US as final destination to settle down

France moves to disband violent Jewish group

Chief of Iran Quds Force ridicules calls to disarm Hamas

US supports Israel with weapons, Gaza with sweet words

Syria Kurds battle jihadists killing nearly 50

West watches post-Gathafi Libya descend in chaos

Carnage in Gaza Strip as death toll passes 1,300

Mosul’s residents rise up against jihadists

Militants fire at Tunisia army helicopter

Islamists capture key Benghazi army base

16 killed in Israeli shelling of UN school in Gaza

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’