The Corner

The Tip of the Spear of the Ambiguous Kinetic Action

Whatever President Obama may or may not say, we seem to be determined to continue to pound Qaddafi’s military. Here’s a report in the New York Times today:

. . . interviews in recent days offer a fuller picture of American involvement, and show that it is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known.

From the air, the United States is supplying much more firepower than any other country. The allies have fired nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles since the campaign started on March 19, all but 7 from the United States. The United States has flown about 370 attack missions, and its allied partners have flown a similar number, but the Americans have dropped 455 precision-guided munitions compared with 147 from other coalition members.

Besides taking part in the airstrikes, the American military is taking the lead role in gathering intelligence, intercepting Libyan radio transmissions, for instance, and using the information to orchestrate attacks against the Libyan forces on the ground. And over the weekend the Air Force quietly sent three of its most fearsome weapons to the operation.

The strategy for White House officials nervous that the Libya operation could drag on for weeks or months, even under a NATO banner, is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Colonel Qaddafi, a result that Mr. Obama has openly encouraged.

. . .

Ten days into the assault, the officials said that Libya’s formidable integrated air defense has been largely obliterated, and that the operation was shifting to a new phase devised to put even more pressure on the country’s armored columns and ground troops.

For the Americans, six tank-killing A-10 Warthogs that fire laser-guided Maverick missiles or 30-millimeter cannons arrived on the scene this weekend. The United States also deployed two B-1B bombers, as well as two AC-130 gunships, lumbering aircraft that orbit over targets at roughly 15,000 feet, bristling with 40-millimeter and 105-millimeter cannons. The gunships’ weapons are so precise that they could operate against Libyan forces in cities, which so far have been off limits for fear of civilian casualties.

On Sunday, allied warships and submarines fired six Tomahawk cruise missiles at the headquarters of the Libyan 32nd Brigade, based in Tripoli and commanded by one of the Libyan leader’s sons, Khamis Qaddafi. Colonel Qaddafi has used the brigade in the past for internal repression.

“This is one of Qaddafi’s most loyal units and are also one of the most active in terms of attacking innocent people,” Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, the director of the military’s joint staff, told reporters on Monday.

. . .

Over all, commanders say they are trying to create havoc among the Libyan forces, cutting off their logistic pipeline, severing their communications back to headquarters in Tripoli, and stoking fear within the ranks with round-the-clock attacks.

“You want to create confusion at the front, go in after command and control at the rear and supply lines in between and ammunition facilities anywhere that we can find them,” Admiral Gortney said Monday, describing the overall effect the campaign is trying to achieve.


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