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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.

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