Leon Panetta has warned Senate members that he is concerned that Libyan rebel forces may include some extremist groups.
Panetta, currently the director of the CIA, is seeking to become the next Secretary of Defense upon the retirement of Robert Gates.
He told Senators during his confirmation hearings that worries about some components of the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council are legitimate and that the Obama administration is watching very closely.
Senior US officials have generally praised the TNC as it seeks topple Moammar Gaddafi, but there are worries about some of its membership and its ability to govern a post-Gaddafi Libya.
Still, Panetta said the NATO-led campaign in Libya is going well and that Gaddafi’s days are numbered
“If we continue the pressure, if we stick with it, I think ultimately Gaddafi will step down,’’ Panetta said.
Still, not everyone is convinced of that.
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said during the hearing:“If there’s any painful lesson that we have learned from our experience in Iraq, it is that if we do not have a plan in place after we have deposed a tyrant, that chaos and violence ensues,’’
She then asked Panetta: “Do you have confidence that we have a plan for dealing with Libya post-Gaddafi?’’
Panetta answered: “I’m confident that there are enough leaders in the opposition who can provide, hopefully, that continuity.’’
Overall, Panetta’s confirmation is virtually guaranteed, given the welcoming nature of Senators who questioned him.
Meanwhile at a multi-national conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will provide about $26 million in humanitarian relief aid for Libya, raising the total U.S. aid to $81 million.