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France brings home CVN, but vows Libya ops will go on

This week Norway brought home the last of its fighters, and now France has announced its aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, soon will break off from supporting the NATO intervention in Libya and return to port. But  the ship is leaving its air wing behind in Sicily, so that its aircraft can continue their air strikes against the forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi. The Rafales will have longer flights to and from work, though, operating from a fixed airfield as opposed to the ship.

There's no word, based on the AFP and Reuters reporting, whether the ship will return -- France probably hopes that by the time it finishes whatever refit it needs, the war is over. Reuters said the Charles de Gaulle had been at sea supporting the Libya intervention since March, and that it would be due back in Toulon by Aug. 15.

How far down on the American radar screen has Libya slipped since only a few weeks ago? Secretary Panetta was asked about it at his press conference on Thursday, and here's what he said:

"With regards to working with our allies, I do believe that NATO has done a very good job at conducting the operations there in Libya. We've been working within the NATO context.  We think they've made some pretty good progress. The key there, obviously, is for the opposition to continue to exert itself to bring pressure on the regime. The combination of NATO and the opposition, I think, has weakened the regime and given us a better opportunity to put diplomatic pressure on Qaddafi to step down."

In other words, 'wake me up when it's over.'

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