There is good news and bad news about the effectiveness of allied airstrikes against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
On the plus side, U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said Tuesday that cruise missile strikes and air strikes have rendered Gaddafi's air force and long-range air defenses ineffective.
But it is unclear whether the no-fly zone the allies are establishing will be very useful in stopping the pro-Gaddafi forces from wiping out the Libyan opposition. During the same Pentagon briefing, Locklear confirmed that Gaddafi loyalists continued to attack Libyan civilians in Misrata.
A doctor at a hospital in Misrata (located about 130 miles east of the Libyan capital Tripoli) said Tuesday that about 80 people had been killed in the city since the Security Council on March 17 adopted a resolution calling for a halt to attacks on civilians. The dead included a family of six killed Tuesday when their car was struck by a tank shell.
The doctor told the Washington Post he had stopped counting the injured and that the hospital is running out of virtually all supplies and medicines."This no-fly zone doesn't mean anything to us because Gaddafi only had a few planes and they were doing nothing," said the doctor, who fears Libyan regime forces will retake the city. "We need a no-drive zone because it is tanks and snipers that are killing us."
Snipers killed at least 16 more people in the town Wednesday and government tanks approached a hospital there.
Allied forces continued to fire missiles from submarines and B-2 bombers at government targets throughout northern Libya. Gaddafi's surface-to-air missiles and mechanized forces also came under attack. Gaddafi's forces withdrew tanks from Misrata and Zintan (75 miles south of Tripoli), but the war remained a stalemate between Gaddafi allies who have been pushed out of eastern Libya and disorganized rebels who have failed to take advantage of the allied attacks against Gaddafi's forces.
A spokeswoman for the opposition said the leader of their new governing body would be Mahmoud Jibril, an American-educated planning expert who recently defected from the Gaddafi regime.
"At the beginning, we thought it would just take a week or two weeks" to oust Gaddafi, she said. "Now we know it will take time. We need a government to liberate the eastern territories." The progress that opposition had made "was just because there was a vacuum. We don't have political experience. We are learning as days go by."
Wednesday's New York Daily News profiles the anti-Gaddafi forces as "a motley collection of secular merchants, Islamic fundamentalists, longtime dissidents, tribal leaders, civil servants, monarchists and angry young men." The anti-Gaddafi coalition includes members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an al-Qaida affiliate. In the past, the Gaddafi regime made controversial claims that it persuaded LIFG militants to renounce jihad.