Gates: No US Boots On The Ground In Libya

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen testify at a House Armed Services Committee

Hot on the heels of Thursday morning’s revelation that US President Barack Obama signed off on a covert war in Libya weeks ago, and that some CIA and British intellignce agents have been working with rebels in the country for weeks, American defense officials have slammed the breaks on any prospect of American troops taking part in a broader effort in Libya.

Giving testimony at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Operation Odyssey Dawn and US Military Operations in Libya, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates emphatically declared that there will be no American troops on Libyan soil “as long as I am in this job.” Gates added that President Obama agrees with his sentiment.

Libya

Under the withering Congressional probing and criticism of an ill-defined mission to aid a rebel force they know little about, Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, sketched out a largely limited role for the US military going forward. The Los Angeles Times reports that Gates testified that what the rebels need most are weapons and training, but empahsised that some other country should train the rebels trying to overthrow Moammar Gaddafi.

“The truth is in terms of providing that training, in terms of providing assistance to them, frankly there are many countries that can do that, that is not a unique capability for the United States and as far as I am concerned somebody else should do that,” Gates said.

Regarding the ideology of the rebel forces battling Gaddafi, The Voice of America reports that Gates testified, “To be honest, other than a relative handful of leaders, we do not have much visibility into those who have risen against Gaddafi [….] But I think that in a way speaking of the quote unquote opposition is a misnomer. Because it is very disparate, it is very scattered and probably each element has its own agenda.”

Speculation about who the anonymous source was that leaked Thursday’s revelation of Obama authorizing a covert war in Libya points towards the Defense Department, as it has emphatically been opposed to an increased military in the Middle East, arguing that American forces, already active in Iraq and Afghanistan, are stretched thin as it is.

Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, argued that passing the Libyan mission off to NATO command was a mistake, saying the US should be doing “what is necessary, not as little as possible” in Libya.

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