Gates: Qaddafi is a Liar
Defense Secretary Robert Gates touched down in Egypt today for talks with military leaders and officials, including Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tahtawi. Gates will try not to step on any toes when it comes to Egypt’s internal post-Mubarak moves. As one Pentagon official said, “We are not here to tell them what to do.” Libya will also be high on the agenda as airstrikes continue there.
Earlier this week, Gates was in Russia, just in time for Russian President Dmitri Mevedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to get into a tiff over the Libyan strikes. In an appearance with Gates, Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov called on “all belligerent parties,” including the U.S., “to stop the violence.” Gates said a cease-fire isn’t going to happen. He also had some strong critiques of Qaddafi’s recent statements about high civilian casualties, calling them “outright lies.” He chided people for taking the Libyan leader's claims “at face value,” saying “It is perfectly evident that the vast majority, if not nearly all, civilian casualties have been inflicted by Qaddafi.”
President Obama may be traveling throughout South America, but his advisers are keeping him in touch with the situation in Libya. In Chile at an official dinner when a U.S. plane went down yesterday, Obama’s chief of staff William Daley and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon remained in close contact about the crash. When Obama got back to his hotel, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen gave the president a full briefing. Both the plane’s pilot and the weapons systems officer were rescued yesterday by a pair of Osprey and a team of Marines.
According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Libyan Colonel Muammar Qaddafi is trying to figure out what his options are should he have to turn to exile. She told ABC that people are reaching out on his behalf, and that Washington “would encourage that.”