Gates: US has not discussed Libyan operation with NATO allies

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

From Stephen Hayes, the Weekly Standard:  Defense secretary Robert Gates says the United States has not had discussions with its NATO partners about how to handle the unfolding crisis in Libya, and he believes that the United States could not quickly enforce a no-fly zone in the country to keep military jets from shooting on the citizens they’re meant to protect.

“I think it’s all happened so fast,” Gates said Tuesday. “And you know, I mean, the strafing of people and everything is, what, 48 hours old?”

The comments came during a candid 45-minute interview of Gates yesterday afternoon in his capacious Pentagon office with Bill Kristol, Bob Kagan of the Brookings Institution, Paul Gigot from the Wall Street Journal, and me. …

Gates says what happens to Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi and his country is unknowable at this point. “Whether he’s able to reestablish control through extraordinarily bloody repression, whether the army boots him out – although the army isn’t as unified in Libya as it is in some of these other countries that we’re dealing with – whether he goes and it kind of goes back to before ’63 in terms of kind of the three parts of the country – the south drawn toward Sub-Saharan Africa, Cyrenaica toward Egypt, and the other part toward the West – have some sort of a consensus among tribal elders or something like that – I think it’s really an open question at this point.”

Gates says there are signs the Libyan military is “fragmenting,” with unconfirmed reports that some commanders have refused orders to fire on protestors and that others have joined the demonstrations. Although the United States has limited capabilities in the region which would make it difficult to set up a no-fly zone quickly, others might be in a better position to help. “The French – I don’t know what the British have in the area – but the French and the Italians potentially, I suppose, could have some assets they could put in there quicker.”  (photo: AFP)

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