The U.S. has said that it will take a more limited role in the military intervention in Libya when it hands over control of the no-fly zone to NATO, but on Friday U.S. Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said that the U.S. will continue to command the air strikes that the U.S. and its allies have launched against Muammar Qaddafi's air defenses and ground forces in an effort to protect civilians.

Gortney explained that NATO will lead the enforcement of the U.N.-authorized arms embargo and no-fly zone but will not conduct air strikes, a tactic that NATO member Turkey has vehemently opposed because of the risk it poses to civilians.

The air strikes "will remain in U.S. hands until such time as the coalition is ready to assume it," Gortney declared in a briefing at the Pentagon. "My expectation is that it, too, could fall under NATO. But ... these are decisions and discussions ongoing at the political level and I just would not speculate right now where it will end up."