US remains military muscle in Libya campaign

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States stepped aside  to allow NATO to run Libya no-fly operations, but the US military’s enormous strike power remains the real muscle behind the coalition effort.

Having held back before plunging into a mission with ill-defined objectives, Washington took the reins Saturday of a coalition tasked rather ambiguously with using “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians.

President Barack Obama, who is under fire from Republicans at home for entering a conflict without a clear exit strategy or endgame, wants to transfer command as quickly as possible to European and Arab allies.

Obama is wary about how America will be perceived in the Arab world, particularly given the current turmoil sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, and also the damage done by his predecessor’s invasion of Iraq.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded NATO’s decision to take command of no-fly operations and hinted a deal was in the works for the transatlantic military alliance to take broader control of all operations.

“We have agreed, along with our NATO allies, to transition command and control for the no-fly zone over Libya to NATO. All 28 allies have also now authorized military authorities to develop an operations plan for NATO to take on the broader civilian protection mission under Resolution 1973.”

But Muslim-majority member Turkey has balked at giving NATO command of strikes on ground targets and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested further discussions would be required over the weekend.