U.S. General to Libyan Rebels: Slow Down or Be Destroyed

Gen. Carter Ham urged rebels forces to slow down as they advance west.

ByABC News
March 28, 2011, 4:07 AM

March 28, 2011— -- Libyan opposition forces are making major advances into Moammar Gadhafi's strongholds, but an American general said today that the rebels should slow down or they might get "destroyed."

Rebels recaptured two key oil facilities amid reports that this morning, they had taken control of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.

In the last 48 hours, rebels have blown through 300 miles of Gadhafi-held territory.

But U.S. Gen. Carter F. Ham issued a warning today to Libyan rebel forces.

"Among my concerns right now is that the opposition will over-reach in their haste to move west. They are not a match for the regime forces. If they move hastily and get destroyed. Then there's nothing to stop regime from moving right back down the coast road," he told ABC News.

If reports of the rebels' capture of Sirte are true, the development would be a major coup for the rebels who are quickly heading toward the capitol city of Tripoli. Sirte is halfway between the rebel-held east and the government-controlled west.

Watch ABC News for President Obama's speech on U.S. involvement in Libya, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, live, Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET

The air raid on Tripoli began shortly after nightfall Sunday. Libyan state television confirmed air raids in Sirte and Tripoli.

Fighting started in the contested city of Misrata -- located between Sirte and Tripoli. Residents reported that pro-Gadhafi forces were firing on residential areas.

NATO Takes Command

Gadhafi faces a larger coalition with NATO taking full command of both the no-fly zone and civilian protection.

According to Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO jets had already begun enforcing the no-fly zone Sunday.

"NATO allies have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the U.N. Security Council resolution," Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement. "NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. resolution. Nothing more, nothing less."

According to a senior Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity, NATO will now assume the entire mission of implementing UN Security Council resolution 1973, which demands an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians.

This fulfilled President Obama's promise to take the leading edge with America's unique capabilities, and then quickly turn over authority to NATO, the official said.