WASHINGTON — US Senator John McCain has urged the United States to "re-engage" militarily in the fight to oust Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, saying Washington's NATO allies lack the necessary firepower.
"We appreciate contributions from all of our allies, the efforts they're making, especially the British and the French. But the reality is the United States is NATO," McCain told the US-Islamic World Forum in Washington.
"When you say 'we're handing it over to NATO,' we're handing it over to people and countries with limited capabilities and limited assets.
"When you withdraw our most capable assets from the battlefield -- the AC-130 gunships and the A-10 air-to-ground weapons system -- then you lose a significant capability. Our allies just don't have that," he continued.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed at a meeting earlier to step up military pressure on Kadhafi's regime, calling for "all means to be made available" in the fight, a French presidency source said.
"Britain and France are at the heart of this coalition," Cameron told Sky News television in Paris.
London and Paris led international calls for action to prevent Kadhafi's regime from cracking down on a revolt against his rule, and now complain they have been left with too great a share of the military operation.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost against President Barack Obama, said the French and British military "just don't have the sustainability" to tip the balance in favor of Libyan rebel forces.
"It's too bad and I would love to see our assets back in the fight," he said.
The Pentagon said last week that US combat aircraft had withdrawn from NATO operations in Libya, but has since retracted its statement, saying American fighter jets are still carrying out bombing raids on Libyan air defenses.
US planes were not, however, taking part in bombing runs against tanks or ground targets under a separate UN-backed mission to protect civilians against Kadhafi's forces.
McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, said Libya was "the ideal terrain for air power to be used... but we need people on the ground to identify targets."
Voicing firm opposition to any US ground incursion, he stressed that any ground troops in Libya should be Libyan or of "other nationalities," but not American.
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