Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – A US Pentagon spokesman has confirmed that orders have been issued to the US Naval and Air forces in the Mediterranean to prepare “to provide a full range of options for national leaders” regarding Libya. US Pentagon spokesman, Marine Corp Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we want our forces to be in a state of readiness in the event that the [US] leadership takes any decision.” He added “there is a series of possibilities on the table, like humanitarian aid or the imposition of a no-fly zone [above Libya].”
Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan revealed that “African command [AFCOM]” and the “European command [EUCOM]” would be responsible, upon receiving orders from Washington, for any military operations. He added “I do not want to give details about the specific units, but we are moving some forces closer to the Libyan region.” He also revealed that “we have planners working on various contingency plans; it’s safe to say as a part of that, we’re re-positioning forces to provide for that flexibility. We are re-positioning forces in the region to provide options and flexibility.”
However Lieutenant Colonel Lapan stressed that this does not mean that the US intends to deploy forces in Libya, adding that “the [US] forces in the southern Mediterranean, including those deployed in southern Europe, can utilize a number of options in the event of a decision being taken.” He also stressed that the US has several military bases in the region, including a military base in Italy, as well as a strong naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea.
US President Barack Obama met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the White House on Monday, where the topic of the UN taking military action to impose a no-fly zone above Libya was raised. However US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley had said that “if you look back at recent history, you do have different ways of approaching this” adding that “the air campaign against the former Yugoslavia was a NATO authorized mission, but not a UN authorized mission…so as a statement of historical fact, there are options available.” The US State Department spokesman added “our focus right now is on the humanitarian situation. Our focus right now is finding ways to stop the violence and stop bloodshed, and we will do whatever we think is prudent and appropriate to reach those objectives.”
P.J. Crowley also revealed that “USAID has set aside an initial $10 million in emergency assistance to support efforts of international organizations, NGOs, and the Libyan Red Crescent Society.”
The US military is currently in “the planning and preparation mode” after the Obama administration imposed economic sanctions against the Gaddafi regime, and froze the regime’s assets. Washington is also considering the possibility of taking additional steps against Libya in response to recent developments on the ground. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that “exile is certainly one option” for Gaddafi, but he did not state whether Washington was prepared to facilitate the Libyan leader’s departure.
A US official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, stated that “exile is one option, but I do not want to say that this is the preferred option because it is impossible to predict what will happen.” He added “there are a number of options in front of Gaddafi, and some of these are not good, such as continuing to use violence against the people of Libya.”
The senior US official also refused to say whether Colonel Gaddafi accepting exile, at this stage, would result in an agreement to drop any draft UN Security Council resolution’s calling for the Libyan leader to be tried by the International Criminal Court. The US official said “we have called for, and we will continue to call for, the Gaddafi regime to be held to account for their actions against the Libyan people.” Last week President Obama stated that the time has come for an end to the Gaddafi regime, which is what the senior US official reiterated to Asharq Al-Awsat, saying that “we are saying that the time has come for a transfer of power [in Libya], and that violence must stop now.”
Informed US sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington is not expected to agree to allow Gaddafi to freely leave Tripoli in return for an end to the violence and armed confrontations taking place in the country today.