By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2011 – Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is on its last legs, and what happens after the Libyan dictator is gone is up to the people of that country, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
Libyan rebels have made progress against Tripoli, taking towns within 30 miles of the Libyan capital. Six months ago, the United States began air operations to stop regime forces from moving on the rebel stronghold Benghazi. At the end of March, NATO took over responsibility and the United States assumed a supporting role.
Rebel forces, without training or equipment at the beginning of the conflict, have pushed across the country to surround the forces loyal to Gadhafi.
NATO officials said regime troops launched a Scud missile Aug. 14, but it fell harmlessly in the desert. It was the first time the regime had launched this type of weapon, and may be a sign of the growing desperation in Gadhafi’s camp, NATO officials said.
The international community also has put enormous pressure on the Libyan leader to step down without further bloodshed, Little said.
Anti-Gadhafi forces are pressuring regime forces, especially in the western part of the nation, Little said. “They are headed toward, and may be in now, a town called Zawiya, and that is relatively close to Tripoli,” he said. “You also have anti-Gadhafi forces making progress in the east. Those are significant developments.”
There have also been high-profile defections from Libya. News reports indicate that Gadhafi’s interior minister escaped from Tripoli with his family and is now in Cairo. Economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Libyan leader also are being felt.
“If you put all of those things together, the future does not look particularly bright for Gadhafi, but we’ll have to see where things go,” Little said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said yesterday that Gadhafi’s days are numbered. “But neither he nor I can put a precise number on how many days,” Little said.