Pentagon Shoots Down No-Fly Zone Talk


US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates played down the possibility of American military intervention in Libya yesterday, saying now was not the time for the United States to be entering into another war in the Middle East and that there was no agreement within NATO about the use of force in the north African country.

Both Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen distanced themselves from comments made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday and Tuesday that imposing a no-fly zone over Libya was under “active consideration.”

Gates told reporters that the United States needs to think “frankly” about “the use of the US military in another country in the Middle East.”

On Capitol Hill, General James Mattis, the head of US Central Command, told a Senate panel that it would be necessary to preemptively attack Libyan air-defense batteries and installations to ensure that they could not shoot down U.S. or NATO planes.

“It would be a military operation,” he said. “It wouldn’t be just telling people not to fly airplanes.”

Gates did announce, however, that he had ordered an amphibious assault ship and an amphibious transport dock ship to the Mediterranean. Experts said the two ships are well-suited for assisting anticipated humanitarian efforts either inside Libya or, more likely, in bordering Egypt and Tunisia.

“We’re obviously looking at a lot of options and contingencies,” Gates said.

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