(WASHINGTON) -- Should rebels in Libya be successful in driving Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power, they may need a foreign presence on the ground to keep the country stable, according to U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Stavridis, the top NATO military commander, told lawmakers that NATO could wind up deploying ground troops, given its history in past conflicts such as Bosnia and Kosovo.
This would run contrary to what President Obama said about not sending soldiers into Libya as pro-democracy rebels and forces loyal to Gadhafi continue battling for control of the country.
Lawmakers pressed Stavridis about the apparent inconsistency in the coalition's goals in Libya, which urges Gadhafi's ouster but does not call for military action to achieve that objective. Stavridis responded that these two approaches may coincide eventually but for now, it's up to the Libyan people to enact regime change if that's what they want.
He added that NATO has wide latitude in interpreting the United Nations resolution allowing the establishment of a no-fly zone, saying it allows the alliance to attack Gadhafi's forces whenever the civilian population is threatened.
The admiral also said there's little evidence of al Qaeda having much influence over rebel forces in Libya.
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