US pulling Tomahawk missiles out of Libya combat

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
US pulling Tomahawk missiles out of Libya combat
Fri, 04-01-2011 - 4:28pm
US pulling Tomahawk missiles out of Libya combat

The Pentagon will soon stop firing Tomahawk cruise missiles against Libya, in addition to pulling its attack planes out of the international air campaign, two U.S. defense officials said Friday.

By ROBERT BURNS

AP National Security Writer

Related

WASHINGTON —

The Pentagon will soon stop firing Tomahawk cruise missiles against Libya, in addition to pulling its attack planes out of the international air campaign, two U.S. defense officials said Friday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday announced in congressional testimony the decision to withdraw U.S. combat aircraft from the NATO-commanded mission as of this coming Sunday.

They made no mention of putting the Tomahawk-firing ships and subs on standby as well. But the U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military planning, said the Pentagon won't fire the powerful long-range missiles unless the situation changes.

After the U.S. standdown takes effect on Sunday, Navy ships and submarines armed with Tomahawks will remain in the Mediterranean in position to resume firing if requested by NATO and approved by the Pentagon, the officials said. U.S. attack aircraft at land bases in Italy and aboard a Navy amphibious ship will also be at the ready, the officials said.

The U.S. military will continue providing a range of support, including aerial refueling and aerial surveillance and reconnaissance. NATO aircraft will perform the combat role as well as patrol a no-fly zone.

As of Friday morning, a total of 221 U.S. Tomahawks had been launched since the military campaign began March 19, according to Pentagon figures. In addition, British naval vessels had launched seven Tomahawks. The cruise missiles use satellite navigation devices to find their targets, which have included air defense sites along the Libyan coast and at inland locations, as well as surface-to-surface missile storage facilities.

With the U.S. pullback, the expectation is that Britain, France, Denmark, Belgium and other NATO partners can bear the full air-combat burden.

Also on Friday, the State Department said it was encouraged by the defection to England of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. officials had not yet had direct contact with the Libyan.

"We believe that Moussa Koussa's departure is yet another sign of fracturing within the regime, and we would urge others within the regime to follow his example," Toner said

"We've been very explicit in saying that we believe they should read the writing on the wall that they should step down, that time is not on their side. ... It's quite clear that they need to step aside and that Colonel Gadhafi himself is de-legitimized and needs to step down."

Some in Congress questioned Gates and Mullen on Thursday about the wisdom of bowing out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Moammar Gadhafi's army.

REMAINDER OF ARTICLE AT:

 nwtreehugger