U.S. officials deny military role in Libya

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

From Philip Ewing and Jen DiMascio, Morning Defense:  There is no U.S. military role in Libya for now, officials across Washington said Wednesday. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t explicitly reject calls by [Sen. John] McCain, [Sen. Joseph] Lieberman and others for a no-fly zone above the country, but that seemed unlikely for the present. [Secertary of Defense Robert] Gates told The Weekly Standard the U.S. hasn’t talked with NATO about doing anything. Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday the Pentagon had received no requests to stand up a no-fly zone or use its ships or aircraft to help evacuate Americans. …

If the U.S. military does get involved in Libya, Qadhafi would almost certainly target Americans or American ships and aircraft – not that they couldn’t handle it, but it would complicate an already very dangerous situation. Air Force fighters flying from Italy and Germany could impose a no-fly zone over Libya, but the politics at work here would almost certainly necessitate a U.N. or NATO blessing, which would take time. Gates told his conservative interviewers if anyone were going to establish a no-fly zone, the French and Italians could get there quicker.

The Enterprise carrier strike group, now probably close to its patrol station off Pakistan, would need several days and major new orders to get back up to the Med, but the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge might be closer. The Navy and Marines evacuated some 15,000 Americans from Lebanon in 2006, but that was a major undertaking that required several ships. The Navy also had several shooting clashes with Qadhafi back in the 1980s, including the time he drew the infamous “line of death” in the Gulf of Sidra.  (photo: US Navy/AP)

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