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March 21st, 2011
06:07 PM ET

U.S. intends to step back in Libya mission, but timing uncertain

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - The unique military capabilities of the United States made it the leader of initial coalition attacks on Libya aimed at establishing a no-fly zone and halting Moammar Gadhafi's forces, but the mission will soon shift to control by NATO or others with participation by Arab nations, U.S. officials insist.

From President Barack Obama on down, administration officials say U.S. forces eventually will provide a supporting role - rather than leading the way - in maintaining the no-fly zone over Libya and preventing Gadhafi from using his military against his people.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon cited "a unique capability we could bring" that "enabled the other assets to be able to be brought to bear right now." After the first phase, he said, "the French and others agreed at NATO to have NATO take on the command and control of this operation at some point" within "not weeks, but days."

The overall goal is for Gadhafi to step down as Libya's leader, Donilon said in a Sunday briefing with reporters covering Obama's Latin American trip.

For now, though, the mission is based on the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized it, as well as an Arab League endorsement for halting Gadhafi's ability to attack his people by putting in a no-fly zone and other necessary steps, according to Donilon and others.

That means the immediate goal of the mission labeled "limited" by Donilon and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is to halt Gadhafi's air capabilities, protect Libyan civilians and ensure that humanitarian work can proceed, they said.

Successful completion of the first phase would bring the transition in leadership, but it remains unclear whether NATO or particular nations will take control.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 21st, 2011
06:04 PM ET

Beat 360° 3/21/11

Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:

President Barack Obama plays soccer with some children while visiting Ciudad de Dues Favela in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Photo credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Update: Beat 360° Winners:

Staff
Elise Miller
"Bend it like Barack."


Viewer

Eddie Dantes, Portland, OR
"Kid, this is just like dealing with the Republican Congress: a balancing act."

___________________________________________________________________________Beat 360° Challenge


Filed under: Beat 360°
March 21st, 2011
06:02 PM ET

In northeastern Japan, hope dwindles as death toll mounts

CNN Wire Staff

Kamaishi, Japan (CNN) - Toyoko Numayama walks from town to town, clutching a photograph of her husband and praying someone recognizes him.

"Of course, I have to have hope," she says.

Missing-persons notices are like wallpaper at the city office in this quake-ravaged coastal town in northeastern Japan. Signs posted show pictures of mothers, grandmothers and husbands.

Survivors sift through evacuation center and hospital logs as the government's tally of the missing grows daily. By noon on Monday, officials said they still had not accounted for 13,262 people, and police say they fear at least half of those are dead.

A glimmer of optimism surged Sunday after rescuers found a grandmother and her teenage grandson, who had been trapped for nine days in their Ishinokmaki home. But happy reunions are increasingly rare.

Japan's national police say 8,649 people are confirmed dead after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami March 11 pulverized entire towns, leaving broken wood beams and massive piles of rubble where organized neighborhoods once stood.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 21st, 2011
06:01 PM ET

Obama walks fine line on Gadhafi's future

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Santiago, Chile (CNN) - President Barack Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi "needs to go," but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow mandate of just protecting innocent civilians.

"Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi's people," Obama said at a news conference here.

Obama alluded to the fact that U.N. Resolution 1973 passed on Thursday restricts the U.S. and its allies from seeking regime change and directly ousting Gadhafi from power.

But, he noted, "Now, I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go."

But Obama said he's still hopeful that other "tools" the administration has used, such as freezing billions in Libyan assets, will eventually help the Libyan people push Gadhafi out.

Obama's comments show the delicate balancing act facing the administration as he tries to adhere to the tight U.N. mandate while knowing the mission is unlikely to be seen as a true success around the world unless Gadhafi goes.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Ed Henry • President Barack Obama
March 21st, 2011
04:45 PM ET

Smoke spews from 2 reactors at stricken Japanese nuclear plant

CNN Wire Staff

Tokyo (CNN) - Smoke spewed Monday from two adjacent reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a nuclear safety official said, setbacks that came despite fervent efforts to prevent the further release of radioactive materials at the stricken facility.

After 6 p.m., white smoke was seen emanating from the facility's No. 2 reactor, according to Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. About two hours earlier, workers were evacuated from the area around the No. 3 reactor after gray smoke began to rise from the wreckage of its steel-and-concrete housing, which was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion last week.

The No. 3 reactor has been the top priority for authorities trying to contain damage to the plant and stave off a possible meltdown. Its fuel includes a small percentage of plutonium mixed with the uranium in its fuel rods, which experts say could cause more harm than regular uranium fuels in the event of a meltdown.

Nishiyama said there was no evident explosion, spike in radiation or injuries at the No. 3 reactor. The smoke was coming from the building's southeastern side, where the reactor's spent nuclear fuel pool is located, but the origin of the smoke at either reactor was unknown.

The coolant pools contain spent fuel rods that still generate high amounts of heat. Authorities have been working to keep them full to prevent the rods from being exposed. The nuclear agency estimated that, between roughly 9 p.m. Sunday to 4 a.m. Monday, 1,170 tons of water were sprayed on the reactor and its fuel pool.

In Geneva, Switzerland, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned that while signs of improvement at the site are evident, the plant "has been seriously damaged by flood water and is littered with debris."

"The crisis has still not been resolved, and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious," Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, told its board of governors Monday after a visit to the site.

"Buildings have been damaged by explosions," he said. "There has, for the most part, been no electric power. Radiation levels are elevated. It is no exaggeration to describe the work of the emergency teams as heroic."

On the other hand, Amano told reporters, rising pressure inside the containment unit at reactor No. 3, a concern from the weekend, was down and power had been restored to some of the reactors.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 21st, 2011
04:28 PM ET

U.S. official: Gadhafi's momentum stopped

CNN Wire Staff

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's momentum has been stopped and rebels have been able to hold onto areas that Gadhafi's forces had been poised to take over, a U.S. official said Monday.

Some regime forces have pulled back, but it is unclear what their intentions are, the official said. It appears the regime's efforts are at least "stalled" right now, the official said.

The coalition is watching carefully to see if Gadhafi's claim of another ceasefire "is a pledge or just words," the official said.

The official said Gadhafi is surrounded by "fierce loyalists" with some defections, but no mass defections.

The official's remarks came shortly after the head of U.S. forces in Libya told reporters that coalition forces had made "very effective" progress Monday toward their goal of enforcing a U.N. Security Council resolution intended to protect civilians from attack by forces loyal to Gadhafi.

"I assess that our actions to date are generally achieving the intended objectives," said Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command. "We think we have been very effective in degrading his ability to control his regime forces."

No Libyan aircraft have been observed operating since the onset of military operations over the weekend, he said. In addition, air attacks have stopped Libyan ground forces from approaching Benghazi, "and we are now seeing ground forces moving southward from Benghazi," he said.

Citing "a variety of reports," Ham said ground forces loyal to Gadhafi that had been near Benghazi "now possess little will or capability to resume offensive operations."

During the prior 24 hours, he said, U.S. and British forces launched 12 Tomahawk land attack missiles aimed at command-and-control facilities, a Scud surface-to-surface military facility and, in a repeat attack, an air defense site.

Air forces from France, Spain, Italy, Denmark and Britain flew missions to maintain a no-fly zone over the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Ham said.

Actions on Monday were focused on extending the no-fly zone to al-Brega, Misrata and then to Tripoli, a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (more than 600 miles).

Canadian and Belgian forces joined coalition forces Monday, he said, and aircraft carriers from Italy and France have added "significant capability" in the region.

The process of transitioning the leadership of military operations to a designated headquarters was in development, Ham said. "This is a very complex task under the best of conditions," he said.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 21st, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Clark: Three key questions about Libya

Wesley Clark
CNN Contributor

Editor's note: CNN Contributor Wesley Clark, a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations, is a retired general and former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Little Rock, Arkansas (CNN) - The coalition is concluding its second day of air operations. The no-fly zone is established.

A column of Libyan military vehicles, driving on a road toward Benghazi, has been attacked and destroyed. This is what much of the world had been crying out for.

Yet the major questions have always been less about the military feasibility of the operation and more about its political goals ands how to achieve them.

Although several world leaders have called for Col. Moammar Gadhafi to give up power in Libya, the authorizing U.N. Security Council resolution did not call for this.

Instead, the goal is to halt the violence against innocent civilians. This raises several important issues:

- Assuming the opposition forces are safe in Benghazi, then what must be done to protect civilians in those towns previously held by the opposition but have now been retaken by Gadhafi's forces?

More


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Opinion • Wesley Clark
March 21st, 2011
09:45 AM ET

Gergen: What is Obama's endgame in Libya?

David Gergen
CNN Senior Political Analyst

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four U.S. presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Cambridge, Massachusetts (CNN) - After conversations with top players in Washington last week, mostly as I accompanied a group of Zuckerman Fellows from Harvard on a field trip, here are some brief reflections on the mood there toward events in the Middle East:

• The head-snapping change in policy toward Libya has everyone guessing where the Mideast is heading, whether the U.S. has a good handle, and most of all, what President Obama is trying to achieve.

• One irony, as a female friend put it, is that for years many of us believed that if only more women could gain power, the world would surely become more peaceful. Yet, we now see that the three people who talked Obama into using force against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi were all women - Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power. Leading male advisers were opposed. Perhaps we should be less surprised than we are. Remember Margaret Thatcher? And Golda Meir? And remember, too, that both were seen as successful leaders for most of their time in office.

• There are divisions in Washington about the president's actions, but most - including me - believe Hillary & Co. had the better argument. If anything, the U.S. delayed too long, allowing Gadhafi to gain the upper hand on the ground.

• But what is the president's endgame in Libya? And what is his strategy for the Middle East more generally? Who can say for sure?

More

March 21st, 2011
09:15 AM ET

Coalition attack on Gadhafi's forces: How we got here

Jason Hanna
CNN

(CNN) - An international military coalition including France, the United States and Great Britain attacked Libyan air-defense and other military targets Saturday night in an operation that eventually will include enforcing a no-fly zone.

Libyan rebels had called on international action to help them stave off assaults by Libyan government forces on their positions in Benghazi and other enclaves. The coalition's intervention in Libya's civil war comes two days after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force, including a no-fly zone, to "protect civilians and civilian populated areas" from government attack.

Here is a look at how the situation got to this point, and what the major players are saying and doing.

THE START OF THE CONFLICT

Libya's civil war began last month, following protests that coincided with a larger wave of demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East against governments there.

In Libya, protesters rallied against, among other things, high unemployment and a delay in a government housing project, and they eventually called for democracy and an end to Moammar Gadhafi's almost 42-year-long rule. Clashes between protesters and security forces began in Benghazi - Libya's second-largest city - on February 16, and as violence spread to other cities, opposition forces claimed control of Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya.

In the ensuing days, the opposition and external governments accused the Libyan regime of atrocities and rights violations, including allegations of a military helicopter firing on a crowd in Benghazi, other military attacks against civilians, arbitrary detentions and summary executions. Gadhafi's regime responded that it was attacking al Qaeda, not civilians.

GADHAFI'S FORCES GAIN GROUND AGAINST REBELS

At the beginning of March, the Libyan military stepped up efforts to reclaim areas lost to rebels.

Full story


Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow
March 21st, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #791 'One step at a time'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The president asked for advice a long time ago. I've pretty much run out, but I keep writing every day anyway.

Dear Mr. President,

So now that the Libyan forces have been pounded senseless by airstrikes, suddenly they want to talk about a ceasefire. No surprise there. Usually the party on the losing end of any exchange is the first to declare a time-out and ask for a review of the rules.

I guess you and the U.N. will have to sort out your response. If you really want Gadhafi out of power, there is little reason to let up. On the other hand, if you can't close the deal by slamming him again and again, you have to be wary of suddenly appearing to be on the wrong side of the conflict. Hey, I've seen it happen before.

I'm not concentrating very well today, despite some of the momentous events in play, because as I write this I am down in Atlanta and I'm pretty tired. My Georgia Tech daughter and I ran the marathon here over the weekend, and I have never seen so many hills in my life.
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