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What should NATO bomb first, soldiers or Gadhafi himself?

By Nic Robertson, CNN
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'Complete chaos' at Libyan hospital
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN source says NATO believes the U.N. resolution on Libya justifies killing Moammar Gadhafi.
  • NATO replies: "We are simply not targeting individuals."
  • NATO is trying to decide what to bomb first, Gadhafi's army or the leader himself.

Abu Dhabi (CNN) -- Night after night, day after day, NATO aircraft have hammered presidential compounds in Tripoli, Libya. I have walked over the piles of rubble.

What I and my CNN colleagues have seen, particularly in recent days, gives additional credence to reporting by CNN's counter terrorism analyst Fran Townsend that NATO's leadership believes the U.N. resolution on Libya justifies killing the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Townsend's source, a senior NATO military official with knowledge of NATO's Libyan operations, also implied more could be done to target Gadhafi.

The comments drew a rapid response from a NATO spokeswoman, hinting at an internal rift within the organization over tactics.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • Libya
  • Moammar Gadhafi
  • NATO

"We are targeting critical military capabilities that could be used to attack civilians, including command and control centers that could be used to plan and organize such attacks," spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said. "We are simply not targeting individuals."

Townsend's source points out that Gadhafi commands Libya's military and is at the center of its command and control.

Gadhafi, as several diplomats noted at a Libya contact group meeting in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, is willing to watch his army get bombed into the dirt rather than quit.

Indeed, just this week Gadhafi said in a radio address he would die rather than step down.

What seems to up for debate at NATO is, with limited resources, what should it bomb first? Should NATO go after Gadhafi's army around rebel strongholds like Misrata, which won't do anything to remove the dictator?

Or should NATO relentlessly pursue the man himself, because the longer he is around the longer the war drags out and the bigger the final cost of picking up the pieces?

Three weeks before he steps down as U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates made clear that he is not happy with the way things are going.

He warned NATO chiefs the alliance's European partners are relying too heavily on the United States.

"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country -- yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference," he said.

The pointed language highlights the urgency of pursuing an end game -- getting Gadhafi and not his troops.

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