HANDOVER

U.S. Wraps Up Libya Combat Role

Over to you, NATO: The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from air combat in Libya on Saturday, with NATO allies, France, and Britain taking over from there. Many in Congress were surprised by the announcement, which came at a moment when the rebels need the most help, having encountered major setbacks this week as Gaddafi's forces advanced. Members of Congress called the move "odd," "troubling," and "unnerving," but Senator John McCain had the harshest remarks. "Your timing is exquisite," he said sarcastically. "I believe this would be a profound mistake with potentially disastrous consequences." Congress pressed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for answers, and he admitted that the timing was "unfortunate" because of Gaddafi's recent gains, but also underscored that continued U.S. airstrikes could be an open-ended and expensive commitment. The United States will now focus on supporting aerial refueling, search and rescue.