US role limited as part of international efforts, says Obama

 The United States, France, Britain, Canada and Italy began attacks on targets designed to cripple Muammar Gadhafi’s air defences as the West tries to force the Libyan leader from power. At least some Arab nations are expected to join the coalition.

French planes fired the first shots, destroying tanks and armoured vehicles in eastern Libya eight years to the day after US-led forces headed across the Iraqi border in 2003. Hours later, US and British ships and submarines launched more than 110 cruise missiles against air defences in the oil-producing North African country.

The United States’ huge military power dominated the initial phase of the strike and Army General Carter Ham, head of the US Africa Command, was leading the entire coalition. Pentagon officials, however, said their plan is take a smaller role over time in the operation, which was named “Odyssey Dawn”.

“Today I authorised the armed forces of the United States to begin a limited action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun,” Obama told reporters in Brasilia, his first stop on a five-day tour of Latin America.
He said US troops were acting in support of allies, who will lead the enforcement of a no-fly zone to stop Gadhafi’s attacks on rebels.

With the United States involved in long-running campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mark Quarterman, a senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the war-weary American public was nervous about more military action.
“The way the US has handled this — the deliberations both in the Security Council and in Washington leading up to this — has been calibrated to the concern that, yes, the US is in two pretty serious wars now,” Quarterman said.

Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, director of the US military’s Joint Staff, said of the US role: “We are on the leading edge of a coalition military operation. This is just the first phase of what will likely be a multiphase operation.”

The Obama administration had taken a lower profile in diplomacy leading to the UN resolution that set up the strikes, believing that it would allow Arab states to coalesce around a call for action and deny Gadhafi the chance to argue that the United States was again attacking Muslims.

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