By Michael Bowman
America’s top military commander says a United Nations-authorized no-fly zone over Libya has effectively been achieved.
The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, is calling the initial phase of a multi-national effort to take control of Libyan airspace a success. Mullen says Libyan command-and-control centers and air defense installations have been struck, and that leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces effectively are grounded.
“We have had a very significant impact very early in establishing this no-fly zone and supporting the mission, which is to protect civilians and also to be able to provide corridors and create the conditions for humanitarian relief,” he said. “So I would say the no-fly zone, which we were tasked to put in place, is actually in place.”
Speaking on the Fox News Sunday television program, Mullen stressed that the current U.S. objective in Libya is well-defined and limited.
“The focus of the United Nations Security Council resolution was really [the rebel stronghold of] Benghazi, specifically, and to protect civilians,” he said. “And we have done that, or we have started to do that. This is not about going after Gadhafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time.”
Mullen added that it is impossible to know right now what the ultimate outcome in Libya will be.
Some U.S. legislators believe the United States should have intervened sooner in Libya, and should now focus on ending Mr. Gadhafi’s rule. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also appeared on Fox News Sunday.
“This is a great opportunity to replace a tyrannical dictator who is not a legitimate leader and who is an international crook,” said Graham. “And we should seize the moment and talk about replacing him, not talk about how limited we [U.S. objectives] will be.”
But Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island says the United States should not act unilaterally beyond the U.N.-authorized mission. He responded this way when asked if he favors U.S. ground forces in Libya:
“Not United States forces,” said Reed. “I think the president [Barack Obama] has rightly ruled that out. But there are many forces that are capable of helping.”
Many doubt Moammar Gadhafi will give up power unless he is forcibly removed. Ali Suleiman Aujali has served as Libya’s ambassador in Washington, but now backs anti-Gadhafi rebels in his home country. He spoke on ABC’s This Week program.
“There is one thing on the mind of Gadhafi: that he will not step down,” he said. “He will fight. He has no other choice. He will never give up”
With air attacks against rebels a thing of the past, Aujali predicts anti-Gadhafi forces will regroup and begin a march towards the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where he predicts they will mount a siege to end the leader’s rule.