US admits NATO trying to kill Colonel Gaddafi
Published 27/06/2011 | 05:00
A senior American general involved in the Libyan campaign has admitted that NATO forces are trying to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, according to a member of the US Congress.
In the first such admission, Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command in Naples, said that efforts had been stepped up to target the Libyan leader, despite declarations by the Obama administration that "regime change" was not the goal.
The admiral's comments were revealed by Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Mr Turner, who has opposed the military intervention from the outset, was among those who voted in the House of Representatives last week to deny President Barack Obama the authority to wage war against Libya. Another motion to stop funding for the war failed.
He told 'Foreign Policy' magazine that he came away from his conversation with Admiral Locklear convinced that NATO was acting beyond the remit of United Nations resolution 1973 on Libya, which allowed for the enforcement of a no-fly zone and the defence of civilians against Gaddafi's forces.
"The scope that NATO is pursuing is beyond what is contemplated in civil protection, so they're exceeding the mission," he said.
The admiral also repeated a comment he made last month that a "small force" might be needed on the ground in the initial stages after the fall of the regime. Mr Obama has been adamant that US ground forces will not be deployed.
Mr Turner said: "The president hasn't come to Congress and said any of this, and yet Admiral Locklear is pursuing the targeting of Gaddafi's regime, Gaddafi himself, and contemplating ground troops following Gaddafi's removal. They're not being straightforward with Congress."
NATO commanders in late April expanded the campaign with strikes against military command facilities and other buildings used by Gaddafi and his top aides.
Officials have taken a wink- and-a-nod approach to such attacks, saying they are not part of a strategy of regime change. "We're picking up attacks on these command-and-control facilities," one official said. "If he (Gaddafi) happens to be in one of those buildings, all the better."
Robert Gates, who stands down as US defence secretary next week, said: "We are not targeting him specifically, but we do consider command and control targets to be legitimate targets wherever we find them."
Leaders of the African Union yesterday reiterated calls for a ceasefire to be observed by all sides, including NATO, and an interim government to be established. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa said signatories to the UN resolution had not intended "to authorise a campaign for regime change or political assassination". (© Daily Telegraph, London)