Tag Archive: Mohamad Samir


Obama OKs use of armed drone aircraft in Libya

Robert Gateshttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110421/ap_on_re_us/us_us_libya

By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns, Associated Press 20 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed drones in Libya, authorizing U.S. airstrikes on ground forces for the first time since America turned over control of the operation to NATO on April 4.

It also is the first time that drones will be used for airstrikes since the conflict began on March 19, although they have routinely been flying surveillance missions, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday.

He said the U.S. will provide up to two 24-hour combat air patrols each day by the unmanned Predators.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the drones can help counteract the pro-Gadhafi forces’ tactic of traveling in civilian vehicles that make it difficult to distinguish them from rebel forces.

“What they will bring that is unique to the conflict is their ability to get down lower, therefore to be able to get better visibility on targets that have started to dig themselves into defensive positions,” Cartwright said. “They are uniquely suited for urban areas.”

He added, “It’s very difficult to pick friend from foe. So a vehicle like the Predator that can get down lower and can get IDs better helps us.”

Gates rejected the notion that the approval of drone strikes means that the U.S. will slowly get pulled back into a more active combat role, despite Obama’s promise to merely provide support for NATO.

U.S. forces played a lead role in the early days of the conflict, launching an onslaught of cruise missiles and bombs on Gadhafi’s surface-to-air missiles sites and advancing regime troops.

But with American forces stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the humanitarian operations in Japan, the Pentagon turned the mission over to NATO, saying it would only do limited airstrikes to take out air defenses. The U.S., said Obama, would no longer do airstrikes to protect the civilian population.

Gates said that bringing in the Predators will give NATO a critical capability that the U.S. can uniquely contribute.

“I think this is a very limited additional role on our part, but it does provide some additional capabilities to NATO,” said Gates. “And if we can make a modest contribution with these armed Predators, we’ll do it. … I don’t think any of us sees that as mission creep.”

He said Obama has been clear that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground and that the main strike role would belong to the allies.

The first Predator mission since Obama’s go-ahead was flown Thursday but the aircraft — armed with Hellfire missiles — turned back due to poor weather conditions without firing any of its munitions, Cartwright said.

Gates, who publicly expressed skepticism about getting involved militarily in Libya before Obama endorsed the limited intervention, said “the real work” of overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi will have to be done by the Libyans themselves.

While he acknowledged the conflict “is likely to take a while,” Gates also said the ongoing sanctions, arms embargo and NATO-led offensive have weakened Gadhafi’s military and eaten away at his supplies and cash. Over the long term, Gates said, that will hurt the regime’s ability to strike back at oppositions forces, if they rise up again in other cities.

At the same time, however, Gates said the administration’s decision to provide $25 million in nonlethal military assistance to the rebels did not signal a deeper U.S. commitment to anti-Gadhafi forces whose makeup, objectives and motives are still not fully understood in Washington.

The aid, he said, is not high-end military equipment but rather a hodge-podge of things like uniforms and canteens.

“I’m not worried about our canteen technology falling into the wrong hands,” he joked.

Asked how long he believes it will take the NATO-led air campaign to succeed, Gates replied, “The honest answer to that is, nobody knows.”

In other comments, Gates did not rule out major military program cuts to meet Obama’s goal to slash another $400 billion from the country’s national security spending over the next 12 years. But he laid out some programs he believes are vital, including the new Air Force refueling tanker and the replacement of some Navy ships.

“The worst of all possible worlds, in my view, is to give the entire Department of Defense a haircut — basically (saying) everybody is going to cut X percent,” Gates said, adding that he’s had one meeting with staff on the issue.

Instead, he said the Pentagon must lay out options and the risks involved if particular cuts are made and how they would affect military missions.

He added that he does not know how much of the cut the Pentagon will be expected to take.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110307/ap_on_re_af/af_libya

By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press Paul Schemm, Associated Press 2 hrs 7 mins ago

RAS LANOUF, Libya – Libyan warplanes launched fresh airstrikes on rebel positions around a key oil port Monday, trying to block the opposition fighters from advancing toward Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold in the capital, Tripoli.

Rebels in the area said they can take on Gadhafi’s elite ground forces, but are outgunned if he uses his air power.

“We don’t want a foreign military intervention, but we do want a no-fly zone,” said rebel fighter Ali Suleiman. He added that the rebels can take on “the rockets and the tanks, but not Gadhafi’s air force.”

Libya appears to be sliding toward a civil war that could drag out for weeks, or even months, as rebels try to oust Gadhafi after 41 years. Resorting to heavy use of air attacks signaled the regime’s concern that it needed to check the advance of the rebel force toward Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown and stronghold.

Anti-Gadhafi forces would get a massive morale boost if they captured Sirte, and it would clear a major obstacle on the march toward the gates of Tripoli.

There were no casualties in Monday’s airstrike on Ras Lanouf, which came one day after pro-regime forces pounded opposition fighters with helicopter gunships, artillery and rockets to stop the rebels’ rapid advance toward Tripoli.

Mohamad Samir, an army colonel fighting with the rebels, said his forces are expecting reinforcements from the east.

The uprising against Gadhafi, which began Feb. 15, is already longer and much bloodier than the relatively quick revolts that overthrew the longtime authoritarian leaders of neighboring Egypt and Tunisia.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

A government spokesman, Abdel-Majid al-Dursi, denied rumors that there had been an assassination attempt against Gadhafi, saying the claims are “baseless rumors.” The speculation started Sunday, when residents in the capital awoke before dawn to the crackle of unusually heavy and sustained gunfire.

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it near impossible to get an accurate tally. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers. The exodus is creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia — another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.

The turmoil is being felt more broadly still in the form of rising oil prices. Libya’s oil production has been seriously crippled by the unrest.

The conflict in Libya took a turn late last week when government opponents, backed by mutinous army units and armed with weaponry seized from storehouses, went on the offensive. At the same time, pro-Gadhafi forces have conducted counteroffensives to try to retake the towns and oil ports the rebels have captured since they moved out of the rebel-held east.

An opposition force estimated at 500 to 1,000 fighters has been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf.

In and around the government-held town of Bin Jawwad, on the road to Sirte, pro-regime forces were running patrols Monday and there were minor reports of skirmishes with rebels on the outskirts. On Sunday, battles there killed eight people and wounded 59, said Ibrahim Said, deputy director of Ajdabiya hospital.

If the rebels continue to advance, even slowly, Gadhafi’s heavy dependence on air power could prompt the West to try to hurriedly enforce a no-fly zone over the country. The U.N. has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and the U.S. has moved military forces closer to its shores to back up its demand that Gadhafi step down.

Enforcing a no-fly zone could take weeks to organize, however, and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted that it must be preceded by a military operation to take out Libya’s air defenses. British Foreign Minister William Hague said Sunday that a no-fly zone over Libya is still in an early stage of planning and ruled out the use of ground forces.

As fighting across Libya grew more fierce, the international community appeared to be struggling to put military muscle behind its demands for Gadhafi to give up power.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke to Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa on Sunday, and called for an end to hostilities, according to a U.N. statement, which said Kusa agreed to the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli.

Valerie Amos, United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement that the Benghazi Red Crescent reported that Misrata was under attack by government forces.

“Humanitarian organizations need urgent access now,” she said. “People are injured and dying and need help immediately.”

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler, has discretely begun contacts with Libya’s provisional transitional national council to find out about the rebels’ intentions.

Suleiman, the rebel fighter, said his forces are waiting for reinforcements in Ras Lanouf.

“The orders are to stay here and guard the refinery, because oil is what makes the world go round,” Suleiman said.

Seriouly, Gadhafi needs to step down, but of course he wont until something happens. So ya’ll tell me what you think.

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