Libyan Regime Forces Feel Effects of Coalition Attacks

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2011 — Moam­mar Gadhafi’s forces are feel­ing the effects of the coali­tion attack­ing com­mand and con­trol cen­ters and logis­tics hubs, as evi­denced by the progress the Libyan oppo­si­tion has made, the direc­tor of the Joint Staff said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon brief­ing today.
Coali­tion air­craft – now includ­ing Air Force A‑10 Warthogs and AC-130s – have attacked regime forces threat­en­ing civil­ians. They also have hit com­mand and con­trol cen­ters, ammu­ni­tion sup­ply points, mis­sile sites and radars.

On March 25, regime forces were out­side Ajd­abiyah and the city was con­test­ed, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gort­ney said. Today, oppo­si­tion forces have con­trol of Ajd­abiyah and have pushed west to with­in 80 miles of Surt — a strate­gic port on the Mediterranean. 

Coali­tion offi­cials believe Gadhafi’s troops are dig­ging in and plac­ing tanks and armored vehi­cles in and around the city, he said. Far­ther west, regime forces are dig­ging in around Zin­tan, and fight­ing con­tin­ues in Misrata. 

Most of the tar­gets hit in the last 24 hours were tar­gets of oppor­tu­ni­ty, Gort­ney said. The coali­tion hit forces still attack­ing civil­ians and also the com­mand and con­trol nodes of the 32nd Brigade — a loy­al regime strike force alleged­ly com­mand­ed by one of Gadhafi’s sons and still attack­ing civilians. 

The coali­tion flew 178 sor­ties over the past 24 hours with the major­i­ty being strike-relat­ed. The num­ber of sor­ties con­tin­ues to grow, “but the labor share [between U.S. and part­ner nations] is def­i­nite­ly evening out,” Gort­ney said. 

Pilots from Bel­gium and Qatar have been fly­ing mis­sions, and 12 fight­ers from the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates will be join­ing the fight short­ly, the admi­ral said. “U.S. mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pa­tion in this oper­a­tion is … chang­ing to one of sup­port,” he said. 

The USS Prov­i­dence, a sub­ma­rine that par­tic­i­pat­ed in the Tom­a­hawk strikes against Libya, has fin­ished its mis­sion and will con­tin­ue its patrol. 

While the Unit­ed States is still fly­ing strike mis­sions, “we are pro­vid­ing 80 per­cent of all air refu­el­ing, almost 75 per­cent of aer­i­al sur­veil­lance hours and 100 per­cent of elec­tron­ic war­fare mis­sions,” Gort­ney said. 

NATO will assume com­mand of the mis­sion in the next few days. “The specifics are still being worked out,” he said. “The mar­itime embar­go [trans­fer of com­mand] was fair­ly easy and straight for­ward. They start­ed tak­ing on the no-fly mis­sion … on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, and we’ll see them tak­ing the total mis­sion, includ­ing the civil­ian pro­tec­tion mis­sion, in the com­ing days.” 

U.S. Africa Com­mand chief Army Gen. Carter F. Ham is com­mand­ing now and will shift the com­mand to Cana­di­an Forces Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard. None of the com­man­ders involved are antic­i­pat­ing any prob­lems with that, Gort­ney noted. 

“One of the ben­e­fits of tran­si­tion­ing to NATO is we’ve been work­ing with NATO for many years, and we under­stand the com­mand struc­ture,” he said. “We exer­cise togeth­er, we oper­ate in Afghanistan togeth­er, and that’s why we have tremen­dous con­fi­dence that we’re not going to drop the ball.” 

Gort­ney said they haven’t received a sin­gle con­firmed report of civil­ian casu­al­ties caused by the coali­tion. “We will con­tin­ue to be just as pre­cise as we can in keep­ing up the pres­sure on regime forces while pro­tect­ing inno­cent civil­ians,” he said. 

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

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