Thursday, June 9, 2011

Obama Administration Vows to Finish Job In Libya

Updated 11 p.m. edt

NATO warplanes have struck at more than a dozen targets in Tripoli, showing signs that it intends to maintain a steady strike tempo against Moammar Gadhafi's forces and facilities.

The attacks were renewed after the Libya Contact Group met in Abu Dhabi, pledging $1 billion for cash-poor, but soon-to-be oil-rich rebel Transitional National Council.

While some of the cash is needed to finance the rebel army, finance the emerging rebel government, much of it is expected to be pumped into restarting the idle Libyan oil industry.

A consensus apparently is seriously emerging that Gadhafi cannot hold on for much longer. There are reports that even his forces who are surrounding Misurata cannot sustain a siege because they are short of ammunition, the ranks of professional soldiers are thinning and the city is being held by increasingly better-armed and trained rebel brigades.

And everyday someone from Gadhafi's inner circle contacts the allies seeking political asylum, or offering to join the rebel army, in the case of military officials.

"Gadhafi’s days are well and truly numbered," said Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. "It is a real proposition and one we may be facing sooner than many of you in this room may think."

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The Obama administration rolled out some of its top guns today to argue that Moammar Gadhafi is doomed and his attacks on civilians have been curbed by the NATO air campaign.

"We have re-affirmed there is only one way forward for Libya, attacks against civilians must stop, Gadhafi must go, and the Libyan people deserve to determine their own future," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Abu Dhabi, where the Libya Contact Group was meeting.

"We have seen the regime weaken significantly. We have seen the opposition make gains both in the East and the West," CIA Director Leon Panetta told a Senate panel today that is considering his nomination to become the next Defense secretary.

"I think there are some signs that if we continue the pressure, if we stick with it, that ultimately Gadhafi will step down," Panetta said.

The Financial Times report claimed in a report today that the Pentagon is preparing for the Libya mission to cost about $60 million a month, instead of the $40 million originally estimated. It Comes as the Senate is considering giving Obama a slap on the wrist for not consulting Congress on the U.S. role in Libya, as the House already has done.

Clinton also emphasized that the rebel Transitional National Council is growing into a legitimate governing body that has demonstrated a willingness to work with democratic governments to build a free society.

"The United States views the Transitional National Council as the legitimate interlocutor for the Libyan people during this interim period. We expect to see Libyans coming together to plan their own future and a permanent, inclusive, constitutional system that will protect the rights of all Libyans," Clinton said.

"This is in stark contrast to the Gadhafi regime, which has lost all legitimacy to rule. The TNC is the institution through which we are engaging the Libyan people alongside our work with civil society," Clinton added.

She left no doubt that the U.S. is all-in until Gadhafi is out.

"As long as he continues his attacks on his own people, our military mission to protect them will continue," Clinton said.

"We are pleased that NATO extended the mandate of Operation Unified Protector for another 90 days. We have stepped up the pace of our strikes and added British and French attack helicopters to our arsenal," she noted.

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