It is not clear how much longer U.S. and NATO forces will continue their operations in Libya after the expected rebel defeat of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
NATO’s goal was to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Mr. Gadhafi’s forces. Following reports that most of the capital, Tripoli, has fallen under rebel control, the role of NATO and the U.S. forces supporting the alliance’s operation in Libya is being reassessed.
U.S. forces have taken part in the NATO’s Operation Unified Protector, carrying out air strikes to enforce a no-fly zone over the country. U.S. drone aircraft also provided intelligence and air strikes.
The Pentagon on Monday said U.S. forces will continue to provide support to NATO as necessary, but gave no indication of when the United States military might begin winding down its participation.
From the start of the operation in March, the United States has said its military role in Libya would be limited within the NATO effort. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and advisor to President Obama, says the role of NATO, including U.S. forces, will have no reason to continue as soon as pro-Gadhafi holdouts are brought under control.
“There will be no need for additional air operations. The no-fly zone hopefully can be lifted in the foreseeable future," said Riedel. "There may be some role for individual NATO nations in training Libya’s new security forces, but I don’t see a very large role for NATO as an organization in the foreseeable future.”
The U.S. military’s mandate does not include providing aid, nor does it involve nation building activities. Its participation has been largely limited to providing intelligence and logistical support to other NATO forces in the operation.
On Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said there are no plans for U.S. troops to operate within Libya. Riedel says there are indications that Libya’s new military has the necessary resources to rebuild, and would rely on limited training support from the outside from here on.
“The Libyan opposition has put together an impressive military campaign over the course of the last few months, starting with virtually nothing, Riedel. "It has been able to put together a force large enough to overthrow Gadhafi’s much better equipped troops and to coordinate a final assault on Tripoli.”