Skip to main content

Official: U.S. military options for Libya being planned

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Click to play
Reports: Libyan pilots executed
  • NEW: White House spokesman says all options are being considered
  • Pentagon begins looking at military options, official says
  • Military options focus on protecting U.S. citizens, stopping attacks on Libyan people
  • U.S. officials confirm a vigorous debate within the administration about military involvement

(CNN) -- In the first indication the crisis with Libya could take on a military dimension, the Pentagon is looking at "all options" it can offer President Barack Obama in dealing with the Libyan crisis, a senior U.S. military official told CNN on Thursday.

The official declined to be identified because of the extremely sensitive nature of the situation, but he has direct knowledge of the current military planning effort.

"Our job is to give options from the military side, and that is what we are thinking about now," the official said. "We will provide the president with options should he need them."

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan acknowledged discussions were underway but refused to provide details.

In Libya, Al Qaeda could step in

"This department is always doing prudent planning for any number of contingencies," Lapan told reporters. "The president said yesterday that the United States is discussing with allies and partners a full range of options regarding the situation in Libya. But we are not going to discuss what any of those specific options might be."

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials were assessing a range of options on how to protect American citizens in Libya and compel the Libyan government to stop attacking its own people.

"What we have said is we're not going to specify which options are on or off the table. We're discussing a full range of options," Carney told reporters, adding that it was likely any action would be in concert with the international community.

"We're interested in outcomes," Carney said. "We're interested in taking measures that will actually have the desired effect, which is getting the Libyan government to stop" killing its own people.

The senior U.S. official also said the "prudent planning" for military options centers around the president's priorities of protecting U.S. citizens and interests and stopping the violence against Libyan civilians. He cautioned against thinking the U.S. military "was about to storm the beaches," but he also declined to specifically rule out the use of military force.

So far, the State Department has not requested the U.S. military to assist in the evacuation of civilians from Libya, which would be required for the military to get involved in that operation.

Several U.S. officials have confirmed to CNN there is a vigorous debate inside the administration about whether to involve the military because of concern it could cause further provocations by the Libyan regime.

CNN's Charley Keyes contributed to this story.