NEW YORK/TRIPOLI: With the Libyan leader, Colonel Mummar Gaddafi’s forces on an all out offensive on outgunned rebels, US military has prepared a range of land, air and sea options in Libya in case Washington and its NATO allies decide to intervene there.
Pressure is building up on US and its allies to flex their military muscle in the face of brazen use of military power by Col Gaddafi’a forces on the civilians and Pentagon’s joint staffs are offering a broad range of options, New York Times reported today.
The military options being considered range from positioning a signal-jamming aircraft in the international air space of Libya which could muddle Libyan government’s communication with military units.
“US administration officials said preparation for such an operations were underway,” the Times said.
The other options, the paper said, before the US were air dropping of weapons including anti-tank arms and supplies to Libya’s oppositions or inserting small special operations team to assist and guide the rebels, as was done in Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban.
Such teams of commandos are specially trained to turn rag-tag rebel groups overnight into more effective fighting formations, with the modest infusion of know how and leadership.
Libyan opposition commanders and leaders have already approached the UN as well as US for international intervention as they feel ill-equipped to drive out Gaddafi’s forces who outgun them and are backed by highly sophisticated Russian made fighters and helicopter gunships.
The call for action is also coming from powerful voices within the US. The chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr John Kerry has demanded that the US and its allies should plan for a ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya and considered bombing the country’s airports and runways.
In a statement here, Kerry cautioned that an operation should be initiated only after an international agreement.
The reports of US military firming up military options comes as a naval strike force is now positioned within range off the Libyan coast. Two amphibious assault ships USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce are moored in international waters carrying a full complement of 26th Marine Expeditionary Force.
In the task force are Harrier jump-jet warplanes, which not only can bomb, strafe and engage in dogfights, but can also carry surveillance pods for monitoring military action on the ground in Libya.
Warships also have attack helicopters; transport aircraft — both cargo helicopters and the fast, long-range Osprey, whose rotors let it lift straight up, then tilt forward like propellers to ferry Marines, doctors, refugees or supplies across the desert — landing craft that can cross the surf anywhere along Libya’s long coastline; and about 400 ground combat troops of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out in at least two Libyan towns early Monday when troops loyal to Col Gaddafi attempted to wrest control from the rebels, a media report said.
Reports of heavy fighting poured in from Ras Lanuf, home to an important oil refinery, and Misurata, where the opposition claimed to have captured some pro-Gaddafi soldiers.
The violence since the unrest began February 14 has left – according to one estimate – around 6,000 people dead and forced around 140,000 people to flee the country.
Though the capital city of Tripoli is still in Gaddafi’s control, some parts of the country, particularly towns in the east, have been taken over by the opposition.
Opposition fighters Monday claimed Ras Lanuf still remains in their hands, Al Jazeera reported. Mr Mohammed Ali, a member of the civil committee for affairs in Misurata, said the pro-democracy activists were in control of the area. “We have also captured some Gaddafi soldiers, and we will interrogate them.
They will be shown on television on Monday,” he was quoted as saying.
“Our armoury is not a lot, but we have moral strength. We also need specific outside help,” he said. In Brega, opposition fighters were making gains, but pro-Gaddafi forces also made some ground overnight, the report said.
Meanwhile, the situation was calm in Benghazi. Abu Sadr, an activist in Benghazi, said: “For the time being, government forces are not going to come into Benghazi unless it’s an airforce attack.People here are very relaxed and we know for the time being we are safe from any ground attacks.”
In Italy’s Lampedusa island, at least 10 boats arrived from North Africa overnight carrying nearly 850 immigrants. They are being identified at a holding centre which is overcrowded with over 1,000 immigrants seeking registration.
Coastguard officials said another boat with 100 immigrants was en route to the island.