Libyan building destroyed by imperialist bombs dropped on this North African state. The western states have targeted the oil-rich nation for regime change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Obama under pressure on Libyan strategy
By Jane Cowan, Lisa Millar and wires
As allied forces enter their sixth day of strikes over Libya - so far failing to stop Moamar Gaddafi's tanks and ground forces from shelling rebel-held towns - questions are being asked about the future of the strategy.
Allied warplanes are now attacking regime forces in built-up areas in the rebel strongholds of Misrata and Ajdabiya, but fighting is continuing on the ground.
Some analysts believe the rebels do not have what it takes to defeat Mr Gaddafi by themselves, and warn that an allied ground invasion of Libya is almost a certainty.
But the US is hosing down any ideas of putting troops on the ground and fending off suggestions it is already at war with Libya.
In a briefing that stuck carefully to the official script, US Rear Admiral Gerard Hueber would not explain what the coalition would do next if Mr Gaddafi's forces could not be beaten from air.
"Can you achieve your mission of 1973 UN Security Council resolution without ground forces?" a reporter asked.
"It's my primary focus today to discuss the current operations that we are in, and I would not project or discuss future military operations," Rear Admiral Hueber said.
"The impression we get from you is it's gotten worse since the allies started bombing. Is that accurate?" another reporter asked.
"Our mandate now is to enforce the no-fly zone and to allow humanitarian assistance to be available to the Libyan people," Rear Admiral Hueber replied.
When asked whether or not the US was at war with Libya, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner also had trouble answering.
"We are, uh, implementing UN Security Council resolution 1973. It is clearly a combat operation - a combat mission," he said.
"As the president made very clear, there will be no US ground forces involved in this."
Whatever the mission ends up becoming, the US hopes to hand over responsibility for command of the mission as early as this weekend.
As well as scrutiny from the general public, US president Barack Obama is having a tough time with his political adversaries over his handling of the situation in Libya.
Mr Obama touched down in the US late on Wednesday afternoon (local time), officially ending his five-day, three-nation tour of Latin America.
But he had mail waiting for him - a tough-worded letter from the most senior Republican, house speaker John Boehner, demanding more details on the president's military mission.
Mr Boehner said he was troubled by the lack of details and wanted to know the benchmark for success.
He wrote: "Is it an acceptable outcome for Gaddafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya? If not, how will he be removed?"
Mr Obama's deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, responded.
"We think it's a good opportunity to continue that conversation with Congress," Mr McDonough said.
"The bottom line and the president's view on this is it's important to bring the country along."
Earlier, key Democratic senators held a conference call with reporters to defend the president's methods as cautious and thoughtful.
They said the future of US ties with emerging Muslim leaders was at stake.
Secretary of state Hillary Clinton's message for the Libyan leader is that the crisis can end if he steps down.
"It will be up to Gaddafi and his insiders to determine what their next steps are," she said.
"But we would certainly encourage that they would make the right decision and not only institute a real comprehensive ceasefire but withdraw from the cities and military actions and prepare for a transition that does not include Colonel Gaddafi."
That was also the suggestion from US defence secretary Robert Gates, who was making an unannounced visit to Cairo.
"I think there are any number of possible outcomes here and no-one's in a position to predict them," he said.
As pressure mounts on Mr Obama, Western allies continue their air strikes over Libya.
Coalition forces say Mr Gaddafi's air force has now been crippled, but they have so far failed to stop his tanks and ground forces from shelling rebel-held towns.
Several explosions have been heard in the capital, Tripoli, while battles continue to rage in the towns of Misrata and Ajdabiya.
Libyan officials have reportedly taken journalists to a Tripoli hospital to see what they said were the charred bodies of 18 military personnel and civilians killed by Western warplanes or missiles overnight.
Western air strikes in Misrata temporarily silenced an artillery bombardment from pro-Gaddafi forces, but later a doctor reported government forces were closing in on and firing at a local hospital struggling to help hundreds of wounded.
Other residents say a "massacre" has been taking place in the town, where snipers have been targeting civilians.
The siege of Misrata, now weeks old, has become increasingly desperate with water cut off for days and food running out, doctors operating on patients in hospital corridors and many of the wounded left untreated or simply turned away.
Pro-Gaddafi forces have also resumed their bombardment of Zintan, another rebel-held town in west Libya, and tanks were expected there.
Meanwhile, six NATO nations have agreed to contribute up to 16 vessels to prevent Mr Gaddafi from bringing in weapons from the Mediterranean, with Turkey offering five warships and a submarine despite its reservations about the military action.
The NATO mission will have the means to intercept and board suspicious ships and the authority to fire a warning shot across the bow of vessels trying to slip away, a NATO official said.