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Some who had initially joined the uprisings, including troops from military bases, appeared to have withdrawn in the face of the regime's crackdown, he said.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

 

Assad: US idea to train rebels illusionary

UN Security Council to on Yemen crisis

Tunisia's Ennahda rejects Essid cabinet line-up

New Saudi leadership aims to diversify oil-dependent economy

Is female cycling socially unacceptable in Egypt?

Alleged Algerian jihadist arrested in Morocco

Obama vows to maintain pressure on Qaeda in crisis-hit Yemen

Gaza announces plans to ready sea port for international travel

Barrage of rockets rains down on Syria capital

Egypt extends Sinai state of emergency by three months

Syria ambassador to UN to head government team in Moscow talks

Qatar court tells US family to decide on fate of alleged killer

Gunmen kidnap Libya deputy foreign minister from hotel room

Erdogan visits war-torn Somalia amid tight security

New violence as Egypt marks anniversary of 2011 revolt

Yemen Huthi rebels fire in air to disperse Sanaa protest

Gridlocked streets of Saudi capital turn quiet for day of mourning

Islamist websites confirm death of Ansar al-Sharia chief in Libya

World leaders head to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences

Iran parliament starts to draft law on nuclear enrichment hike

Mauritania prison siege ends with captives freed

Syria opposition demands 'radical democratic change'

Tunisia turns the page on political Islam

Iran FM pays rare visit to Saudi Arabia after King's death

Signs of uprising against Huthis in streets of Sanaa

Israel prepares for any retaliation by Hezbollah

New Tunisia PM forms cabinet with no Islamists

Saudi Arabia buries King Abdullah

Britain allowed Libya to intimidate political opponents

Gul calls to Erdogan for greater democracy

Israel Arab parties join forces ahead of snap election

Mubarak sons freed pending retrial

Hagel: US has killed thousands of jihadists

Iraq asks for more weapons to fight IS threat

Half-brother Salman replaces late Saudi King

Yemen leader resigns, leaves country in deadlock

King of Saudi Arabia dies at age of 90, Crown Prince Salman declared new ruler

Europe pleads for more nuclear talks allowance

Israel PM accepts invitation to address US Congress

Huthis maintain tight grip on Yemen capital despite deal

Anti-IS coalition talks focus on threat of homegrown jihadists

Wait for Hezbollah reaction to Israel air strike on Golan ... next week

French flag burnt in Baghdad protest

Mubarak sons freed pending corruption retrial

Saudi postpones flogging of blogger again