US to lead attacks on Libya until at least Saturday listen03/23/11 wire reports including AP
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President Barack Obama is ruling out a land invasion of Libya to force Moammar Gadhafi out. Obama told the television network Univision that an invasion is absolutely out of the question.
"What this is is a very specific military action that's time limited, that is in support of an international effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Libya. And to establish a no-fly zone so that Gadhafi cannot use his forces against his own people. We've been successful in pushing his forces back so that the city of Benghazi of 700,000 people, where he said he would show no mercy, has been spared. We have a very narrow military action. We have a long range policy of making sure that Gadhafi is no longer blocking the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people but that is not necessarily going to be accomplished just by military means."
Obama also says the U.S. will pull back from its dominant role in the international effort this week. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he can't predict when the international military enforcement of the no-fly zone might end, but that the U.S. could turn over control of the operation as soon as Saturday.
In international attacks early today, missiles from F-15 fighter jets destroyed Gadhafi missile sites around Tripoli.
A top Navy official in the campaign in Libya says international forces are intercepting and attacking government troops that have been storming population centers in the North African nation.
Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber says the coalition is targeting Gadhafi's mechanized forces, his artillery and mobile missile sites as well as ammunition and other supplies for government troops.
"As of yesterday, the 22nd of March there were 175 aircraft sorties, 113 which were US, 63 were coalition. That number is increased from just 3 days ago when we were flying at 15 percent coalition sortie raids. In air defense activities we have degraded the Libyan strategic surface to air missile systems to a negligible threat. We believe that air defense system elements are severely degraded or destroyed and have been by the coalition forces. We have seen no related surface to air activity associated with target acquisitions since strikes began on March 19th. We will continue our focus on the regimes air force network that continues to pose a threat to coalition air operations enforcing the no-fly zone but, as I reiterated before, as I mentioned before, we are putting pressure on Gadhafi's ground forces that are attacking civilian populations and cities. While those ground forces are engaged in fighting in Ajdabiya and Misrata and are threatening a number of others, the pressure from joint task force Odyssey Dawn coalition partners will continue."
Hueber spoke to Pentagon reporters from the U.S. command ship in the Mediterranean sea.
The Pentagon says there is no evidence the US-led assault on Libya has caused any civilian casualties
The U.S. price tag so far for the no-fly zone in Libya easily tops hundreds of millions of dollars.