Top U.S. admiral: Goal in Libya is to kill Qaddafi

Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi Gaddafi Qaddafi GENERIC target libya CBS/AP

Gaddafi  Libya
Muammar Qaddafi
CBS/AP

It has been more than three months since President Obama told the nation that the U.S. was launching a humanitarian military mission in Libya, one that would last "days, not weeks."

Special Section: Anger in the Arab World

The mission was clear: "We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal -- specifically, the protection of civilians in Libya and whose goal was to protect Libyan civilians in imminent danger in Benghazi."

In the following weeks, Mr. Obama stressed that, although it would be desirable for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to step down, the U.S. would not pursue regime change.

"I, along with many other world leaders, have embraced that goal, and will actively pursue it through non-military means. But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake," Mr. Obama said March 28. "If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission or risk killing many civilians from the air."

Someone should tell the president's military commanders.

The top U.S. admiral in the NATO-led Libya war told a congressman last month that NATO is indeed trying to kill Qaddafi, Foreign Policy reports:

"House Armed Services Committee member Mike Turner (R-OH) told The Cable that U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command in Naples, Italy, told him last month that NATO forces are actively targeting and trying to kill Qaddafi, despite the fact that the Obama administration continues to insist that 'regime change' is not the goal and is not authorized by the U.N. mandate authorizing the war."

Turner also said Locklear told him that the Libya mission will require troops on the ground if and when Qaddafi falls, another scenario that Mr. Obama explicitly (and repeatedly) ruled out in March.

Of course, Turner's (and Locklear's) admission does not necessarily mean that U.S. troops would be committed or that U.S. is leading mission to kill Qaddafi because NATO -- with extensive U.S. involvement -- is now running the Libya operation. But it certainly provides fuel for critics who expressed early skepticism about any U.S. engagement in Libya and about the purported goals of the "humanitarian" mission.

The revelation comes as the House voted Friday to reject two competing resolutions on Libya -- one backing a continued engagement in the face of mounting congressional condemnation and another that would have cut off most funding for the war in an even harsher rebuke. Congressional critics on both sides of the aisle are angry that Mr. Obama entered the war without approval from lawmakers -- required under the decades-old War Powers Resolution except when the U.S. has been attacked or is under imminent threat.

  • Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at CBSNews.com

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