Libyan campaign breaks Pentagon estimates costing U.S. taxpayers $2 million a day

The cost of the U.S. campaign in Libya is set to exceed the $750 million Pentagon estimate set out in March, according to a leaked Department of Defence Memo.

The 'eyes-only' DoD dossier said the U.S. had already spent $664 million in Libya by mid-May - a running cost of $60 million a month since the bombing began in March.

At the current rate of spending, the U.S. will have to shell out at least an extra $274 million till the end of the current 90 day no fly zone extension period - brining total expenditure to a minimum of $938 million.

The news came as donors pledged more than $1.3 billion dollars to help support Libya's main opposition group, after countries backing NATO's military mission there met to prepare for the post-Moammar Gadhafi era.

The leaked document, obtained by The Financial Times, showed the rate of spending is far higher than DoD estimates issued in late march.

Then, a congressional hearing, heard the U.S. had spent about $550 million on Libya, at a rate of about $40m a month.

The soaring cost will only add to the pressure felt by military commanders already grappling with growing budgetary constraints and procurement over spends.

Mr Gates has requested extra funds for Libya operations, but has been rebuffed by the White House.

Speaking in May: 'In the case of Libya, unfortunately, we’re fundamentally having to eat that one.'

NATO airstrikes rattled the Libyan capital this morning, with seven thunderous explosions shaking the city.

Concussions from the strikes, in clusters of a few minutes apart, washed over Tripoli from its outskirts. Rebels hold swaths of eastern Libya, although fighting has since become a stalemate even with NATO support.

The news comes as NATO allies in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to focus on what one U.S. official called the 'end-game' for Libya's Gaddafi as NATO once again stepped up the intensity of its air raids on Tripoli.

Italy and France offered a combined $1.02 billion to Libya's Transitional National Council while Kuwait and Qatar promised a combined $280 million to a fund set up to provide transparent assistance to the opposition.

The pledges came as council members appealed for urgent infusions of cash to keep from going broke.

The council is trying to establish an alternative government to take over after Gadhafi.

Preparing for Libya's next phase will require a decision on what fate - exile, prosecution or some third option - should befall the beleagured Gaddafi.

Other issues include the parameters for a ceasefire between rebels and remaining Gaddafi loyalists and the creation of a viable political process that will ensure the democratic aspirations of the Libyan people, according to U.S. officials.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Abu Dhabi today, disappointed the rebel-affiliated group by saying that while Washington would boost its humanitarian aid to all Libyans by $26.5 million it is not offering any direct aid to the council.

'Gadhafi's days are numbered,' Clinton said.

'We are working with our international partners through the U.N. to plan for the inevitable: a post-Gadhafi Libya.'

Fathi Baja, head of political and international affairs for the TNC, said he was encouraged by the growing list of countries that announced they plan to recognize the council as the legitimate government of Libya.

He said Australia announced at the meeting it would do so today while Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus said they would do so in the coming days.

But he said he was less impressed with the financial commitments, adding that he was hearing more about money in the meeting already promised than new pledges.

He singled out Kuwait, which he said has yet to deliver the $180 million pledge made a month ago.

Although a handful of nations have recognized the council as the legitimate government of Libya, the United States has not.

That has delayed efforts to free up some of the more than $30 billion in Libyan assets that have been frozen in U.S. accounts.

The U.S. said on Wednesday that the first shipment of Libyan oil sold by the council had been delivered to an American refinery and Clinton encouraged other nations to make similar purchases to help the Libyan people.

[Source: Daily Mail, London, 10Jun11]

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