Exactly a week ago, Kevin Baron of Stars and Stripes wrote the following about Libya and the Obama campaign administration's "plan" there:
The U.S.-led coalition is slowing its bombing campaign over Libya and pushing the boundaries of a no-fly zone westward toward Tripoli, but it will not provide close air support for opposition rebels, its commander said.
There is no sign, however, that a handoff of operational control to U.S. allies is imminent, despite pledges from President Barack Obama and others to do so within days.
Now, the "handover to NATO" bit that Obama has been promising for the last week hasn't completely happened yet (though in fairness, it hasn't just been NATO; they're just the only ones who've actually agreed to hold a portion of this hot potato that Obama has been trying like crazy to pass off ever since the American T-LAMs started flying from the Med into Libya), as American aircraft flew well over half of this past weekend's sorties against Qaddafi's military and air defense installations.
Further, contra what General Ham said a week ago today (which I'm sure was the best translation he could accomplish of the ridiculously mixed signals coming out of the nation's center of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as from President Obama), not only is the US not backing off its operational tempo over Libya, but, according to reports, including this one from the AP, those weekend sorties included offensive missions flown by A-10s and AC-130s.
Both of these platforms have anti-armor and anti-personnel capabilities, of course, but there's just one thing at the core of their respective missions for some time now: Close Air Support for troops on the ground. The AC-130 in particular, with its pinpoint accuracy with rounds from 25mm to 105mm and its marathon loiter time, is a Close Air Support knockout artist when the US, et al possesses 100% true air superiority. The A-10, of course, is justly famous for the Gatling Gun around which its fuselage is constructed, and its "Devil's Cross" shape is a favorite site of ground troops and forward air controllers alike.
This raises one point and two questions. First, the point: Clearly Obama, and whoever is making his decisions for him, have decided to take about as big a step toward assisting the rebels in their efforts to overthrow Qaddafi as they can without actually arming and training them, or without sending in ground forces of their own. Second, the questions: (1) Where are the A-10s and AC-130s based? and (2) So does this mean deposing Qaddafi is back on, after being off for a couple weeks, or are we still just throwing weapons at a problem we don't understand, on the side of people we don't know (and in the cases we do know them, can't trust), in hopes that some undefined positive result will happen on its own?
As more skin is put in this game - and don't think that the supposed handoff to NATO will take US skin out of the game, as the former will likely be imposing an ROE on its military personnel that eliminates any effective assistance they may be able these rebels in accomplishing whatever it is we're hoping is accomplished. As a result, it's up to Britain and France (and the US, because we can, and because Obama apparently thinks our military exists to serve Europe, rather than we the people) to continue doing whatever it is the Obama/Gates/Clinton/Powers nexus feels like doing on whatever day of the week it is they feel like doing it. Case in point: Today, the administration appears to be offering more vociferous defenses of its legal ability to arm the Libyan rebels (see streiff's post here for why that is an utterly stupid idea).
After over a week of bombarding Libya, President Obama is deigning to address the nation tonight about the effort there (though not from the Oval Office, natch). Somehow I think that the objective in that north African nation, where we're currently firing Tomahawks and flying CAS/anti-armor/anti-personnel combat sorties in an effort to protect Europe's supply of oil, will be even less clear after the Great TelePrompTer reader is finished speaking tonight - if that's even possible.
*I filed this post in the "war" category because we seem to be lacking one called "kinetic military action." Clearly that omission was an obvious oversight. Oops.