MONTEREY (KCBS) – During a stop on the Central Coast, United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that with rebel forces making significant gains in Libya, he hopes the operation will end soon.

Speaking at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Panetta said that U.S. officials are continuing to monitor the fluid events in Libya.

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He said he was proud of the United State’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission, helping to bring 40 years of Moammar Gadhafi to an end.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

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“We have been able to work with our NATO partners in not only protecting civilians, but in providing the no-fly-zone and be able to provide other assistance as well, as they’ve gone after various targets,” Panetta said. “It’s been a very important role.”

As far as what happens next, Panetta reiterated President Barack Obama’s words that the future of Libya is “in the hands of Libyans.”

He said he expects balanced governing in Libya and the rest of that region of Africa.

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