Despite the back and forth gains and loses rebel forces are having against government troops in Libya, two prominent U.S. lawmakers said Sunday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is facing mounting pressure and that his days are numbered.
Rebel forces fighting troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi withdrew from the strategic coastal town of Brega on Sunday, following several days of intense fighting. Days before, rebels claimed they had won control of the town.
Brega is one of several oil ports along the Mediterranean Sea that has changed hands between rebel and government forces several times since fighting erupted in February.
The assistant majority leader in the U.S. Senate, Democrat Richard Durbin, told NBC television's "Meet the Press" program Sunday that despite the challenges the rebels are facing, Mr. Gadhafi is under increasing pressure.
"Even though it's been a seesaw [i.e., back and forth] in the battle that the opposition forces have a strong position in the eastern part of Libya. The most important thing to recall is that we have gathered in an international coalition started by the Arab League working with the United Nations to make sure that Gadhafi's days are numbered," he said.
Republican Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence appeared on the same program and agreed.
He said organization among the rebels is improving and noted that about 1,000 soldiers have defected from the Libyan Army and are helping those fighting against Mr. Gadhafi's forces. "The pressure on the Gadhafi regime is intense. You know Moussa Koussa, his foreign minister, former head of intelligence has defected. They are treating him well. He is providing valuable information to the British and the United States, and to the rebels," he said.
With defections and international efforts bearing down on Moammar Gadhafi, Senator Durbin said the Libyan leader likely feels threatened from all sides.
"We've seized over $30 billion of his assets in the United States. We're closing down oil exports. His cabinet ministers are resigning. He has lost control of the eastern part of his country. Put yourself in Tripoli in his position now and ask, 'What are your long-term prospects of leading Libya?' They are very limited," he said.
But the amount of support the United States should give the rebels is unclear.
Representative Rogers said that although it is clear what the rebel forces want - Moammar Gadhafi out of power - what is less clear is what they are fighting for and whether there is a terrorist element within their ranks.
"In the past, the Libyan al-Qaida element or al-Qaida in the Maghreb provided foreign fighters in Iraq to target U.S. citizens. But that didn't mean that was part of the Libyan government. [The country is] very tribal - 140 tribes, 30 of which are politically active. We just need to know a lot more before we give them advanced weapons," he said.
Asked whether Libya's leader is a terrorist threat, Rogers said Mr. Gadhafi was a state sponsor of terrorism and still possess stockpiles of what he called "pretty awful stuff." Rogers said the threat Mr. Gadhafi poses is one reason why he should not remain in power.
"He used chemical weapons in his fight against Chad in 1987. That's a fact. We have seen; I've been in Libya. I've seen his chemical stockpile. We know it's there. It exists. He has other weapons systems that concern us," he said.
Senator Durbin said that although U.S. military forces will become less involved in coalition operations over Libya during the next few weeks, America will continue to play a supportive role in providing intelligence, logistics and the refueling of planes. Late Sunday, the Pentagon said the United States had agreed to NATO's request to conduct airstrikes on Libya through Monday.