NPR: “President Obama said Wednesday it was ‘absolutely’ out of the question that U.S. ground forces would be used in Libya.”
How would the president describe the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit? There is no such thing as a purely air-based combat mission; planes have problems and pilots end up on the ground, and then U.S. forces have to end up on the ground, hopefully briefly, to rescue them and bring them home safely. Ask Scott O’Grady how much time you can spend on the ground while patrolling a no-fly zone.
The Kearsarge then sent up two MV-22 Ospreys carrying Marine rescue teams. As they were en route, the Harriers dropped two laser-guided bombs near the crash site, apparently to keep Libyans on the ground from approaching the pilot.
With additional helicopters hovering overhead for security, one of the Ospreys landed and picked up the pilot. He was then taken aboard the Kearsarge.
The weapons systems officer was recovered by what U.S. officials described as Libyan opposition forces. He is safe, officials have said.
There are about 2,200 Marines off the shore of Libya right now.
UPDATE: God bless Matt Drudge and the Drudge Report.
With the sudden influx of attention, permit me to further clarify the original point of this post: President Obama’s tendency to speak in broad, sweeping terms that are not accurate (see Tim Carney for more illustrations of this) and to underline the folly of the notion, implied by much of this administration’s rhetoric, that any military action can be quick, clean, or easy, or involve only minimal risk. Thankfully, the rescue of the downed pilots earlier this week went off without a hitch, and God willing, any future rescues will end successfully and with minimal contact with the enemy. But that’s up to chance; Operation Eagle Claw and the Battle of Mogadishu demonstrate that there’s no such thing as a simple rescue mission. At some point, the U.S. may need many “boots on the ground,” despite repeated, broadly worded assurances from the president and commanding officers that such a scenario will not occur.