By Meredith Bue
A top U.S. military official said the multinational coalition enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya has fired 12 Tomahawk missiles and flew nearly 80 sorties on Monday.
The U.S. commander in Africa, General Carter Ham, told reporters Monday that the Tomahawk missiles targeted Libyan command and control stations, a Scud missile facility and air defense sites.
Ham said some forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are moving away from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. “And through a variety of reports, we know that regime ground forces that were in the vicinity of Benghazi now possess little will or capability to resume offensive operations.”
Speaking by video conference from his headquarters in Germany, Ham said his forces are not in contact and are not coordinating their actions with rebels in Libya who are seeking to topple Gadhafi.
“Our mandate – again, our mission – is to protect civilians from attack by the regime ground forces. Our mission is not to support any opposition forces.”
Asked about an air strike on Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, Ham said the target was a command and control facility and not the Libyan leader. “I don’t know much about the location of the Libyan leader, nor have we expended any military effort in that regard.”
Ham said he expects the number of airstrikes on Libyan targets to go down as Gadhafi’s military assets are destroyed and his troops stop attacking civilians.
He also said the current mission could end in a stalemate, with Gadhafi remaining in power in Tripoli. “I could see accomplishing the military mission, which has been assigned to me, and the current leader would remain the current leader. Is that ideal? I don’t think anyone would say that that is ideal.”
General Ham said the coalition is gradually expanding the no-fly zone to Tripoli and will extend it about 1,000 kilometers along the Libyan coastline.