It has become increasingly unclear which side will prevail in Libya since the U.S. military has scaled back its efforts against Muammar Gaddafi — Gaddafi and his loyalists in the west part of Libya or the rebels in the east.
On CNN’s Sunday airing of “State of the Union,” host Candy Crowley asked Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham if the Libyan war is headed toward a stalemate.
“[It] looks like a stalemate,” Graham said. “The military’s strategy of taking U.S. air assets out of NATO I think was a big mistake. We have a unique capability. We got AC-130s, A-10s that can do a lot of damage to the Libyan forces supporting Gaddafi. When you take these off the battlefield — you know, we wanted a no-fly zone for the Libyan aircraft, not ours.”
Graham said that rebel forces fighting against Gaddafi couldn’t succeed on their own and lobbied the White House and NATO to take a more aggressive approach against the Libyan dictator.
“But here’s what I think is going to happen,” he continued. “Right now there’s just not enough momentum by the rebels even if they are better armed to break through to Tripoli. There’s not deep support for Gaddafi. So my recommendation to NATO and the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Gaddafi’s inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters in Tripoli. The way to get Gaddafi to leave is have his inner circle break and turn on him. And that’s going to take a sustained effort through an air campaign. I think the focus should now be to cut the head of the snake off. That’s the quickest way to end this.”
Crowley suggested that a more aggressive military posture might draw objections from members of the United Nations Security Council, but Graham argued that such concerns shouldn’t be a deterrent to act.
“This is not even a close call for me. You can’t let the Russians and the Chinese veto the freedom agenda,” Graham said. “So any time you go to the United Nations Security Council, you run into the Russians and the Chinese. These are quasi dictatorships so I wouldn’t be locked down by the U.N. mandate. I would do what would be best for the United States, the Libyan people, the region and the world and that’s replace Gaddafi.”
Graham also explained that he had little faith rebel forces in the east part of Libya could succeed on their own.
“The idea of the rebels pushing all the way to Tripoli, even with new weapons and an air campaign, is limited because they’re not well trained,” Graham said. “The way to get this over quickly is to go after the inner circle in Tripoli, in my view. So let’s have two strategies. Make sure that Gaddafi forces lose on the battlefield, better equip the Libyan rebels, have more air power coming to their aid so they begin to win on the battlefield, and put pressure on Gaddafi’s inner circle in Tripoli by going after their compounds and their sanctuaries.”