WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States does not intend to send ground forces into Libya to assist in any international peacekeeping operations following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the Pentagon said on Monday.
As rebels searched for Gaddafi, whose forces made a last-ditch stand in Tripoli on Monday, the Pentagon knocked down speculation the Libyan leader might have slipped out of the country.
"We do not have any information that he has left the country," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said, without offering further details on his presumed whereabouts.
President Barack Obama previously ruled out sending U.S. ground forces into Libya, trying to limit U.S. exposure to a third conflict as it wrestles with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lapan said that position still held in any post-Gaddafi era.
"If there is going to be some kind of transitional mission that involves any kind of foreign troops, there wouldn't be U.S. ground troops as part of that," Lapan said.
U.S. surveillance operations over Libya, as part of the NATO mission, were expected to continue in the coming days. Those include use of U.S. Predator drone aircraft, two more of which were deployed to Libya last week.
Lapan rejected the idea that battlefield conditions inside Tripoli were becoming too complex for aerial surveillance to distinguish between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces. If true, that could have complicated NATO air support.
"We still have a pretty good operational picture of where the forces are arrayed on the battlefield," Lapan said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney)