19 March 2011


U.S. military involvement in the civil war in Libya began today, as part of a coalition of forces including Britain and France.

More than 110 Tomahawk missiles fired from American and British ships and submarines hit about 20 Libyan air and missile defense targets in western portions of the country, U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney said at a Pentagon briefing. . . . The salvo, in an operation dubbed "Odyssey Dawn," was meant "to deny the Libyan regime from using force against its own people," said Gortney. . . .

Earlier, French fighter jets deployed over Libya fired at a military vehicle Saturday, the first strike against Gadhafi's military forces, which earlier attacked the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Prime Minister David Cameron said late Saturday that British forces also are in action over Libya. . . . British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said the Royal Air Force deployed Tornado GR4 fast jets, which flew 3,000 miles from the United Kingdom and back, "making this the longest-range bombing mission conducted by the RAF since the (1982) Falklands conflict."

While there were no U.S. warplanes flying over Libya late Saturday, the coalition was softening Libyan positions before enforcing a no-fly zone, Gortney said. . . .

Obama is planning for the U.S. portion of the military action in Libya to only last for a few days, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak about sensitive military matters. "After that we'll take more of a supporting role," the senior official said.

Obama authorized U.S. military force from Brazil on what happened to be the eighth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. . . .

Earlier Saturday, incoming artillery rounds landed inside Benghazi, and pro-Gadhafi tanks rolled into the town firing rounds, witnesses said. A flaming fighter jet plummeted from the sky, nose-diving to the ground. Khaled el-Sayeh, the opposition military spokesman, said the plane was an old MiG-23 that belonged to the rebels.

As night fell over Benghazi on Saturday, the city became quiet and calm. While plumes of smoke could be spotted, the pro-Gadhafi tanks seen earlier were not in sight. . . . Gadhafi forces had withdrawn from the city and that they were positioned 50 kilometers (31 miles) outside Benghazi.

The war in Libya joins the ongoing active military operations of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the operation in Iraq is winding down. So far, the Libya operation does not involve significant numbers of U.S. ground troops, who are taxed from other operations, instead relying mostly on U.S. Navy and Air Force resources, which are far less strained.

The prevailing assumption behind the outside intervention, authorized by the United Nations Security Council, is that it will decisively shift the course of the conflict in Libya by denying Gaddafi the one edge he has in hte conflict, superior access to heavy weapontry, such as fighter jets, helicopters, artillery batteries and tanks. Another possible but not certain possibility is that senior Gaddafi supporters, particularly those in the military, will see that their plight is hopeless and abandon his regime.

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