U.S. to remove some vessels from Libya duties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon will gradually remove some of its vessels from the Mediterranean now that NATO is taking command of the international campaign in Libya, U.S. military officials said on Monday.

“There is planning out there to do that. I don’t know the timing. It will be more gradual than sudden,” said one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

NATO agreed on Sunday to take over all operations in Libya, putting the 28-nation alliance in charge of air strikes that have targeted Muammar Gaddafi’s military might, an arms embargo and no-fly zone designed to protect Libyan civilians.

The vessels to be moved out of the Mediterranean might include some of the destroyers or submarines that have been used to launch Tomahawk missiles since the United States, Britain, France and other nations began military actions more than a week ago.

Loyalist troops in Libya continue to battle rebel forces emboldened by the air strikes that appear to have weakened Gaddafi’s military capabilities.

When the United States and other countries began strikes on Gaddafi, the Pentagon had 11 vessels stationed in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two guided-missile destroyers and two amphibious assault ships that carry helicopters.

There are currently no U.S. aircraft carriers currently stationed close to Libya.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. to remove some vessels from Libya duties