The White House predicted Sunday that Moamer Kadhafi’s days as leader of Libya were numbered, as rebel forces fired the opening shots in a battle for Tripoli.
President Barack Obama received a briefing from senior national security staffer John Brennan at his rented farmhouse on the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, which included inputs from a US team in rebel stronghold Benghazi.
“The United States continues to communicate closely with our allies, partners, and the (rebels’ Transitional National Council),” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
“We believe that Kadhafi’s days are numbered, and that the Libyan people deserve a just, democratic and peaceful future,” he said, repeating a line frequently used by the administration throughout the Libya crisis.
Rebel advances on Libya came as NATO appeared to intensify its air strikes after urging civilians to avoid areas around government installations and arsenals.
Republican Senator John McCain said he believed Kadhafi’s four decades-long rule could be over within “hours if not days” but said that the Obama administration could have hastened his demise with direct US airpower.
“I believe that it’s nearing the end,” McCain said on CBS show “Face the Nation.”
“It’s going to be a big challenge forming a new government, uniting a country that has never known democracy.
“I grieve a bit because this conflict didn’t have to last this long. The United States air power could have shortened this conflict dramatically. And unfortunately we chose not to. We led from behind.”
Obama committed heavy US firepower to the Libya conflict in the early days, but then handed over responsibility for front line military action to US allies in NATO, though Washington retains a large support role in the mission.