© The Associated Press / Pablo Martinez MonsivaisPresident Barack Obama answers question on the ongoing situation in Libya during his joint news conference with President of El Salvador Mauricio Funes at the National Palace in San Salvador, El Salvador, Tuesday, March 22, 2011
President Barack Obama Wednesday categorically ruled out a land invasion to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as coalition forces launched a fifth day of air strikes against government military targets in the North African nation.
And Obama said the U.S. this week will be pulling back from its dominant role in the international campaign aimed at preventing Gadhafi from attacking civilians.
In international attacks early Wednesday, missiles from F-15 fighter jets destroyed Gadhafi missile sites around Tripoli. In two cities where pro-Gadhafi troops have besieged civilians, the international force struck a government ammunition depot outside Misrata and other planes hit ground forces outside Ajdabiya, officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Residents in Misrata said coalition attacks forced government troops to withdraw tanks there.
Obama was asked in an interview with the Spanish-language network Univision if a land invasion would be out of the question in the event air strikes fail to dislodge Gadhafi from power. Obama replied that it was "absolutely" out of the question.
Asked what the exit strategy is, he didn't lay out a vision for ending the international action, but rather said: "The exit strategy will be executed this week in the sense that we will be pulling back from our much more active efforts to shape the environment."
"We'll still be in a support role, we'll still be providing jamming, and intelligence and other assets that are unique to us, but this is an international effort that's designed to accomplish the goals that were set out in the Security Council resolution," Obama said.
Obama had said last week that he had no intention of sending ground combat troops into Libya, and his statements in the interview served to reinforce that point.
As the air war in Libya achieves some of its early objectives, such as grounding Gadhafi's air force, the administration is looking for a quick way out of the front-line role it has assumed in an international operation that has yet to gain the robust participation of Arab nations that Washington wanted.