This afternoon on Fox News, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), presumably thinking he was attacking President Obama, seemed to leave out one important element when discussing the NATO campaign against Muammar Qaddafi: the U.S. military. “Let’s give credit where credit is due,” Rubio said, adding, “It’s the French and the British that led on this fight. And probably even led on the strike that led to Qaddafi’s capture or to his death.”
While of course the U.S. military played a major role in the Libya air war, particularly at its outset, it turns out that it was most likely an American drone that initially attacked Qaddafi’s convoy just outside Surt which ultimately led to his capture. Reuters reports on the incident:
France said its aircraft struck military vehicles belonging to Gaddafi forces near Sirte at about 8:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) on Thursday, but said it was unsure whether the strikes had killed Gaddafi.
Some two miles west of Sirte, 15 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns lay burnt out, smashed and smouldering next to an electricity sub station some 20 metres from the main road.
They had clearly been hit by a force far beyond anything the motley army the former rebels has assembled during eight months of revolt to overthrow the once feared leader.
But there was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have been carried out by a helicopter gunship, or that it had been strafed by a fighter jet.
That helicopter gunship then, was most likely an American drone, the AFP reports:
A U.S. defense official said Oct. 20 a U.S. Predator drone along with a French fighter jet had attacked a convoy of vehicles in Libya that Paris believed was carrying Moammar Gadhafi. [...]
The U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the unmanned Predator aircraft had struck “the same convoy” but could not confirm that Gadhafi was in one of the vehicles.
A French official said Qaddafi’s convoy “was stopped from progressing as it sought to flee Sirte but was not destroyed by the French intervention.”
So if Rubio won’t give the U.S. any credit in NATO’s Libya campaign, at least perhaps he’ll acknowledge he was wrong in thinking American assets had nothing to do with Qaddafi’s capture?
The New York Times reports that NATO is backing off the claim that they had anything to do with Qaddafi’s capture:
The French defense minister, Gérard Longuet, said that French and other NATO warplanes had overflown the colonel’s convoy, but refused to go beyond that. The Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said that the action that led to Colonel Qaddafi’s death was an operation by the rebel fighters “and no one else.”