U.S., U.K. defense chiefs united on Libya for now

NATO is reportedly stepping up its airstrikes on Libyan government command and control centers, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates stuck to Washington's position that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi was not the main target. He met with his British counterpart Liam Fox for several hours on Tuesday, and both struck a measured, conciliatory tone in their joint press conference.

Fox's rhetoric of recent days had suggested those behind attacks against Libyan civilians risk being targeted themselves, while Gates has continued to assert there will be no American boots on the ground in Libya.

During their meeting, the two secretaries discussed ways to increase precise "targeting" of Qaddafi's compound and ground forces.

To Gates, those compounds have always been legitimate targets. "And we have taken them out elsewhere," he told reporters. "Those centers are the ones that are commanding the forces that are … [committing] violations of humanitarian rights such as in Misurata," he said, referring to the besieged city where some of the bloodiest battles have taken place.

Although Qaddafi's forces decried the bombing on the compound as an assassination attempt on the Libyan leader, Gates stressed that the coalition is not "specifically" targeting Qaddafi. Fox backed him up.

"As long as that government continues to target civilians … we will continue to regard all their command and control mechanisms as legitimate targets," he said. "Our duty and resolve will not waver as long as that civilian population remains at risk from an aggressive, wicked regime, which has waged war on its own population."

However, there are concerns in the U.K .about how long the conflict will drag on without resolution in sight. There weren't many specifics raised after the meeting. Fox would only tell reporters that there were "good discussions on how to better exploit emerging opportunities on the ground." The discussions also included Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and British Chief of Defense Staff Gen. David Richards.

Last week, President Obama approved the use of armed Predator drones to take out targets in Libya, agreeing to fly a maximum of two Predators over Libya at any given time. Gates insisted last week that the modest contribution to the international effort wasn't a sign of mission creep, but rather a "very limited additional role on our part, but it does provide some additional capabilities to NATO."

As for Syria, where strongman Bashar al-Assad continues an unrelenting crackdown on demonstrators, the secretaries both drew a line regarding intervention. Gates pointed to immense international backing for action in Libya, which began with what he called the "unprecedented" Arab League resolution calling for a no-fly zone, as well as the push by the the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations. That hasn't happened with Syria.

Fox said that each political situation must be individually evaluated. "We can't do everything all the time," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.