Gates: Obama OKs Predator Strikes in Libya

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has approved the use of armed preda­tor strikes in the inter­na­tion­al fight against Libyan dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gadhafi’s regime, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.
Gates and Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters at the Pen­ta­gon.

“The pres­i­dent has said that where we have some unique capa­bil­i­ties, he is will­ing to use those,” Gates said. “In fact, he has approved the use of armed preda­tors [in Libya].” 

Armed preda­tors have been used in Libya “pure­ly as [intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance sys­tems] until today,” Cartwright said. 

Two unmanned armed preda­tors capa­ble of around-the-clock cov­er­age are now in Libya, the gen­er­al added. The first flights launched today but were can­celled because of bad weather. 

The char­ac­ter of the fight in Libya has changed, Cartwright said. Gad­hafi loy­al­ists, he said, are dig­ging in or “nestling up against crowd­ed areas” to avoid being tar­get­ed by NATO aircraft. 

The more-pre­cise preda­tors bring “their abil­i­ty to get down low­er and there­fore, to be able to get bet­ter vis­i­bil­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly on tar­gets that have start­ed to dig them­selves into defen­sive posi­tions,” Cartwright said. 

The air­craft are unique­ly suit­ed for urban areas where more tra­di­tion­al bomb­ing can cause col­lat­er­al dam­age, he added. 

“This is a very lim­it­ed capa­bil­i­ty,” Gates said, adding that the pres­i­dent has been clear from the out­set that the U.S. role would be specif­i­cal­ly defined. 

Oba­ma struc­tured the U.S. role in Libya as a lim­it­ed one because “of all our friends and allies, we are the most-stretched mil­i­tary,” Gates added. 

“We have close to 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, we still have 50,000 troops in Iraq and we have 19 ships and 18,000 men and women in uni­form still help­ing on Japan relief,” the sec­re­tary said. 

The pres­i­dent agreed to par­tic­i­pate in the inter­na­tion­al effort against the Libyan gov­ern­ment, Gates said, because “of the wor­ry that Gad­hafi could desta­bi­lize the fledg­ling rev­o­lu­tions in both Tunisia and Egypt … and sec­ond to pre­vent a human­i­tar­i­an disaster.” 

The pres­i­dent has been clear, the sec­re­tary said, “that the pri­ma­ry strike role has been turned over to our allies and our friends, and if we can make a mod­est con­tri­bu­tion with these armed preda­tors, we’ll do it.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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