March 19, 2011 ·7 Comments
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military launched its first airstrikes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, officials said Saturday.
U.S. Tomahawk missiles landed in the area around Tripoli and Misrata, a senior military official said, adding that the action was taken after Gadhafi failed to comply with a cease-fire.
“He’s clearly been on the offensive,” the official said of Gadhafi. “He said that he was going to do a cease-fire and he continued to move his forces into Benghazi.”
U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed that he had authorized “limited military action in Libya” and that “that action has now begun.”
The attacks on Gadhafi’s forces will be part of a multiphase approach in a sequential and deliberate manner, according to the official.
“The U.S. will be at the front end of this, providing the unique capabilities that the U.S. has,” the official said.
Obama noted that military action “is not an outcome that the U.S. or any of our partners sought,” pointing out that Gadhafi was offered the opportunity to comply with an immediate cease-fire.
“But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity,” Obama said. “His attacks on his own people have continued, his forces have been on the move,” and the danger for the Libyan people has grown.
The first phase of the operation will focus on limiting the regime’s ability to resist a no-fly zone, the military official said.
“In order to create the conditions that allows coalition forces to operate, we have to create the environment (in which) they can do that safely, and a key element of that is to go after the integrated air and missile defense systems that Gadhafi has out there,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
The first airstrikes will take out Gadhafi’s air defenses in the western part of Libya, mostly concentrated around Tripoli and Misrata.
“Once we do that, that would open up the environment where we could enforce the no-fly zone throughout, from east to west of Libya,” the official said.
Phase two of the mission would then begin, with planes flying over Libyan airspace near Tripoli, and in the Mediterranean Sea near Benghazi.
The coalition says the no-fly zone imposed as part of a U.N. Security Council resolution aims to prevent further attacks by regime forces on Libyan citizens and opposition groups, especially around Benghazi.
In addition to the United States, four nations have publicly announced their participation: the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and France. Other nations are expected to announce their participation soon.
The initial mission will be commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham and U.S. Africa Command. The Joint Task Force’s “Odyssey Dawn” is being commanded by U.S. Navy Adm. Sam Locklear, on board the USS Mount Whitney in the Mediterranean Sea.
“The use of force is not our first choice, and is not a choice that I make lightly,” Obama said in a statement from Brazil where he is on a tour of Latin America. “But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his own people that there will be no mercy.”
From CNN’s Chris Lawrence
Source: CNN | 19 March 2011Follow @somalilandpress