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New Libya commander: Stalemate not in anybody’s interest

New Libya commander: Stalemate not in anybody’s interest

Adm. James Stavridis, the head of U.S. European Command and the top military official in the Libya war, told lawmakers on Tuesday that a number of scenarios are possible in Libya, but the continued rule of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi was not in the interest of Libya, America, or the world.

"A stalemate is not an acceptable solution," Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican John McCain (R-AZ) told Stavridis at the Tuesday morning hearing. McCain said that while he supported the military intervention in Libya, "An opportunity was lost by not imposing a no-fly zone over Libya three weeks ago."

Stavridis, who serves as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), replied that a stalemate "is not in anybody’s interests," but that the ouster of Qaddafi would only be pursued by non-military means, and that there was no way to guess how long the arms embargo and no-fly zone missions would last.

Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) also said at the hearing that a long and costly stalemate is not in the U.S. interest. Levin said President Barack Obama‘s speech to the nation on Monday evening "made a clear and convincing case," for the use of military force in Libya.

Stavridis acknowledged that the sorties flown in Libya, which have included widespread attacks on Qaddafi’s military assets, were crucial in shifting the momentum toward the rebel forces. But he insisted that there was no coordination with the rebel forces and said he was not aware of any NATO military forces on the ground in the country.

So what happens if Qaddafi decides to wait out the coalition and just sit tight? Stavridis explained that the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political coordination organization, would evaluate any "shift in direction" and then could go to the United Nations to formulate a response. As for the military operations, there would be a "pause in activity while it was evaluated on a political level."

Stavridis put the cost of the operation so far in the "hundreds of millions of dollars." He also spelled out exactly how the new NATO command structure will be organized. The arms embargo mission will be led by a Canadian Lt. Gen. Charlie Bouchard, based out of Italy. The air mission will be run out of Turkey by a U.S. three-star general and a French three-star general Stavridis did not name. They all will report up to U.S. Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, who is the Joint Task Force commander of the operation.

Locklear reports up to Stavridis, who sits in Brussels. Stavridis reports up to a NATO military committee run by an Italian officer, which reports up to the NAC.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) noted that the transfer of power leaves several U.S. military officers in key missions and with the United States still contributing more to the Libya intervention than any other country by far.

"It’s not like we’re taking a hot potato and throwing it to someone else," he said. "We’re NATO."