US commanders say Libyan mission is on target


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22-03-2011 08:07 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


22-03-2011 08:07 AM



22-03-2011 08:47 AM

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2011-03-22 08:07:14

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OBAMA, Barack



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US commanders say Libyan mission is on target -

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The military campaign against Libya is generally achieving its objectives, according to the
American officer in charge. General Carter Ham insists those objectives don't include actively
supporting the rebels in their fight against the Libyan leader.

TONY EASTLEY: The American commander of the coalition attacks on the Libyan regime says the mission
is generally achieving its objectives and has robbed Gaddafi's forces of much of their will and
ability to resume attacks on the rebel-held town of Benghazi.

But he's fielded difficult questions about the coalition operation and whether it will extend to
actively supporting the rebels in their fight against the Libyan leader.

North America correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: He's the man who's stuck for now with leading the Libyan intervention.

But speaking from his base in Stuttgart Germany, US general Carter Ham reaffirmed the intention to
handover to a coalition command.

CARTER HAM: I would not put a date certain on this. It's not so simple as just having a handshake
someplace and saying, 'Okay, you're now in charge'.

JANE COWAN: He defended the attack on the Libyan leader's compound.

CARTER HAM: Degrading that command and control facility would degrade the regime's ability to
control its military forces.

JANE COWAN: He said he knew little about the whereabouts of the Libyan leader now and acknowledged
the mission could end without his removal.

CARTER HAM: Is that ideal? I don't think anyone would say that that is ideal. But I could envision
that as a possible situation, at least for the current mission that I have.

JANE COWAN: But the stickiest questions were about the exact nature of the mission in Libya.

General Ham was pressed repeatedly by reporters about whether coalition forces were effectively
providing air support for the rebels in their fight against Colonel Gaddafi.

CARTER HAM: I suspect some would argue that some within the opposition may be civilians. And if
they are attacked by regime forces then we would be obliged, if we possessed the capability, to try
to protect them from attack.

But we have no mission and no intent to provide close air support to the opposition.

JANE COWAN: The questions got even more complicated for the US State Department spokesman, Mark

MALE REPORTER: Will the coalition act to protect civilians who support Gaddafi?

MARK TONER: Um... (long pause). I'm sorry, you mean- Well, I mean, we always... In what way? I'm
unclear about...

MALE REPORTER: I don't know. I think it's pretty direct.

MARK TONER: But you're talking about...

MALE REPORTER: There are people in Libya right now who, you know, for whatever reason, are in
favour- are out demonstrating- civilians demonstrating in support of Colonel Gaddafi.

Will the coalition act to protect them if the opposition forces...

MARK TONER: We don't want to see violence perpetrated against innocent civilians.

MALE REPORTER: So you will.

JANE COWAN: On his trip to Latin America, now in Chile, the US president kept up the semblance of

Barack Obama promised the US would stick to the limited mandate to protect civilians in Libya but
left no doubt about his broader hope.

BARACK OBAMA: It is US policy that Gaddafi needs to go.

JANE COWAN: Barack Obama said the US would hand over command within days, not weeks, and said NATO
would be involved.

This is Jane Cowan in Washington for AM.