The first U.S. Predator drone strike in Libya occurred Saturday morning, two days after President Obama authorized the use of the unmanned weapons, the Pentagon announced Saturday.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that the use of drones aligns with the battlefield aim of weakening Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi and encouraging the rebels to oust Qaddafi.
“Regime change imposed from the outside, as we have seen in Iraq and in the Balkans, is incredibly difficult,” Gates said during a news conference on Thursday. “It works best, as we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt, when it is done from within.”
The advantage of using the drones, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday, was their ability to fly lower to the ground than manned aircraft. This allows NATO commanders to target Qaddafi's forces in crowded areas or near weapons caches without as much risk of collateral damage.
The Pentagon did not release any details about the location or the result of the drone strike but did say it happened in the early afternoon local time.