April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Senator John McCain said the U.S. should increase its role in North Atlantic Treaty Organization air attacks against Libya and rebels there need more direct assistance in the fight against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
“I really fear a stalemate,” McCain said of the conflict, speaking on CNN television’s “State of the Union” program after he traveled Libya. Rebel fighters are “badly outgunned in armor, equipment and training” against Gadhafi loyalists, the Arizona Republican said.
McCain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that the U.S. should increase air attacks “but troops on the ground is out of the question” and would be counterproductive.
Removing Gadhafi’s television broadcast capabilities would be helpful because “when the Libyan people see Gadhafi on television it scares them,” McCain said.
McCain told CNN he was supportive of reports of the first missile attack from a drone aircraft in Libya as fighting continued in the rebel-held city of Misrata. A Predator drone fired its missile yesterday, the U.S. Defense Department said in an e-mailed statement, without elaborating.
“I’m glad the Predator is now in the fight,” McCain said. “We need the American air assets back in a heavier way.”
McCain was hesitant about supporting direct attacks on Qaddafi himself. “My emphasis is winning the battle on the ground,” he said, not relying on a “lucky airstrike.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who also advocated more air support for the rebels, told CNN that NATO forces should begin bombing Gadhafi’s “inner circle.”
“I think the focus should now be to cut the head of the snake off,” he said.
McCain visited Benghazi, the center of the Libyan uprising, on April 22, in a show of support for insurgents trying to overthrow Gadhafi. McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged the U.S. to recognize the rebel Transitional National Council as the country’s government and provide financial assistance.
Rebels in Libya have been fighting to end Gadhafi’s 42-year rule since mid-February. NATO war planes operating over the capital, Tripoli, struck near Gadhafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound, AP reported yesterday. Automatic weapons fire and rocket explosions could be heard in the city of Misrata, the BBC reported today, citing its correspondents.
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