U.S. Planes Still Flying Missions Over Libya

Apparently, the Pentagon’s definition of a “support role” is a bit nuanced:

U.S. warplanes have bombed three ground targets in Libya since the Obama administration announced early this month that America was shifting to a support role in the NATO-led air campaign, the Pentagon acknowledged Wednesday.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said that U.S. fighter jets have attacked Libyan air defense sites as part of the no-fly zone imposed last month under a United Nations mandate to deter attacks against civilians by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.

Administration officials have said previously that the U.S. had halted strike sorties on April 4, several days after turning over command of the air campaign to the NATO alliance, and that attacks on Libyan tanks and other ground units would be handled by aircraft from Britain, France and other allies.

But the limited U.S. role has grown increasingly controversial in recent days.

Libyan opposition leaders and some NATO allies publicly complained about the intensity and scope of the air campaign against Kadafi’s forces since the U.S. announced that American warplanes would cease participating in the mission to protect civilians.

In his speech last month announcing the turnover to a non-U.S. NATO commander, President Obama said, “The United States will play a supporting role — including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications.”

A senior military official said that three attacks were launched last week against Libyan surface-to-air missile sites. U.S. F-16 and EA-18G fighters carried out the strikes with 500-pound bombs.

Lapan disputed suggestions that the attacks contradicted administration claims to have assumed a support role in the operations. He said the U.S. combat role was confined to enforcing the no-fly zone and that non-American warplanes were attacking Libyan military units that threatened civilians.

“Having a few aircraft in this capacity [conducting airstrikes} does not change” the fact that the U.S. is in a support role, Lapan said.

As long as you understand the definition of “support” apparently includes dropping bombs.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Oh jeez you guyz, says:

    Oh my God! Mission creep is happening. Wow! Didn’t see THAT comin’!