Washington: Days after the US-led coalition forces vigorously pounded the forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, there has been no change in the Libyan leader's forces as they continue to target and attack innocent civilians, a top Pentagon official has said.
"We don't want to go out and count tanks, the number of tank turrets that we see knocked off of tanks," Director of The Joint Staff Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said on Friday.
"What we want to see is the kinetic and non-kinetic fires that we are putting out, is it showing a change in the behaviour of the regime forces? And at this particular point, we're not seeing that change take place yet," he said.
In an operational briefing to Pentagon reporters, Gortney said the Gaddafi forces have suffered losses due to the coalition attacks.
"Their ability to command and control and effectively employ their air defence is almost nonexistent," he said.
"They still have tactical, mobile surface-to-air missiles, which still are a threat," he said.
"We have seen a degradation in their ability to command and control their forces as a result of the fires that we're putting out there, but we haven't seen it take a large enough effect that it's changing the total effect on the battlefield," the Pentagon commander said adding that Gaddafi forces still remain a serious ground threat.
"Gaddafi has virtually no air defence left to him and a diminishing ability to command and sustain his forces on the ground," he said.
His air force cannot fly, his warships are staying in port, his ammunition stores are being destroyed, communication towers are being toppled, and his command bunkers are being rendered useless," Gortney said.
"We received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition," he said.
"I'm not sure whether they truly are volunteers or not and I don't know how many of these recruits he's going to get but I find it interesting that he may now feel it necessary to seek civilian reinforcements," said the Pentagon official.
Gortney said the coalition forces in last 24 hours hit more command-and-control capabilities in and around Tripoli and launched 16 additional Tomahawks on pre-planned strikes against Scud garrisons in Tripoli and against more integrated air-defence systems down south in Sebha.
"We flew more than 153 missions (last 24 hours), 96 of which were strike-related. Slightly more than half of those strike missions were executed by US pilots," he said adding that the number of sorties have gone up at a rapid rate.
"Benghazi remains relatively calm and in opposition hands. Ajdabiya city is still contested, and we assess that our strikes on regime forces around the city have had an effect, but the regime is still able and still determined to reinforce their positions there," he said.
"Regime troops are trying to do the same inside Misurata and Zintan, where they have maintained a presence and are still attacking opposition forces and innocent people," he said.
"Again, the coalition is working very hard to make it very hard for Gadhafi and his troops to kill their own citizens and destroy property. But that is, as described is a delicate mission," he said.
"We are charged under the UN mandate with protecting the people of Libya, so nothing we do must put them at greater risk than the risk they face at the hands of the Gaddafi regime," he said.
"We must focus on rather on limiting the regime's ability to inflict harm by squeezing it and denying it the tools to do so," he said.
And we believe we are achieving some success in that regard," he added.