Washington (CNN) – Speaking at the Pentagon today, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters President Obama has "approved the use of armed predators" in Libya. Gates asserted that the use of armed predators will provide NATO with "some precision capability" enabling allied forces to concentrate on Ghadafi strongholds that have started migrating into urban areas.
Drones, commonly known as unmanned aircraft, were deployed during the early days of the campaign for surveillance purposes without the authorization to fire.
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright added that allies are seeing a much more "dispersed fight" since operations began in mid-February. "We're trying to struggle with the intermixing of the lines so to speak, so it's very difficult to pick friend from foe," said Cartwright, adding that predator drones may be able to help allied forces distinguish between Gadhafi and rebel forces.
Asked whether the increased capability was a form of mission creep, Gates reinforced that the President has been clear about the United States' role in Libya from day one, "the primary strike role has been turned over to our allies and our friends and if we can make a modest contribution with these armed predators, we'll do it."
As a Republican holdover, Secretary Gates is set to leave his post by the end of 2011. When asked by one reporter whether he's concerned that Libya could still be a potential stalemate by the time he leaves, he smiled and said, "well, the worry will be my successor's."