From David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times: The Obama administration is considering sending more Predator drones and other surveillance planes to bolster the NATO air war in Libya, and has reopened a debate over whether to give weapons to the rebels seeking to overthrow Moammar Kadafi, a senior Defense Department official said.
NATO commanders requested the sophisticated surveillance aircraft after concluding that they were running out of military targets in Libya after four months of bombing and missile strikes against Kadafi’s military forces and command facilities, U.S. and NATO officials said.
The Pentagon’s willingness to consider strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force in Libya marks an apparent shift since Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta took over the Pentagon early this month.
Panetta has emphasized that winning the war in Libya is one of his top priorities. His predecessor, Robert M. Gates, had urged European allies to do more and had stressed that the U.S. military was overstretched.
NATO commanders are especially eager to obtain more Predator drones, which can remain aloft for a dozen hours or longer, beaming live video and other intelligence data back to targeting analysts on the ground, a senior NATO officer said. The Predator drones can carry two air-to-ground missiles.
"It’s getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up," said a senior NATO officer, noting that Kadafi’s forces are increasingly using civilian facilities to carry out military operations. "Predators really enable you study things and to develop a picture of what is going on."
Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times