Libya bombing called successful; endgame unclear
Associated Press | 3/22/2011, 6:59 p.m.
A military official said the B-2s flew 25 hours in a round trip from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and dropped 45 2,000-pound bombs.
U.S. missiles and warplanes were clearly in the lead Saturday and Sunday, but Gates said the plan remains for the U.S. to step back once the threat from the Libyan military is reduced.
“We agreed to use our unique capabilities and the breadth of those capabilities at the front of this process, and then we expected in a matter of days to be able to turn over the primary responsibility to others,” Gates told reporters traveling with him to Russia. “We will continue to support the coalition, we will be a member of the coalition, we will have a military role in the coalition, but we will not have the preeminent role.”
President Barack Obama, traveling in Brazil, held a conference call Sunday with top national security officials, including Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Army Gen. Carter Ham, the U.S. general running the air campaign.
Obama also called King Abdullah of Jordan on Sunday to emphasize the importance of a broad international effort in the Libyan campaign and to discuss the unrest in Bahrain, said national security adviser Tom Donilon.
Obama referred to Libya but did not discuss the unfolding operation during remarks in Brazil.
“We’ve seen the people of Libya take a courageous stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own citizens,” Obama said. “No one can say for certain how this change will end, but I do know that change is not something that we should fear. When young people insist that the currents of history are on the move, the burdens of the past can be washed away.”
House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement Sunday that while the U.S. has an obligation to support the Libyan people, the Obama administration must do a better job of communicating to Americans and to Congress what the U.S. mission in Libya is and how it will be achieved before further military commitments are made.
Donilon, responding from Brazil, said, “I think that’s a fair request of the administration, frankly, and we are doing that.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was pressed repeatedly during a round of Sunday television interviews to explain the mission’s objectives. He said the main goal is to protect civilians from further violence by pro-Gadhafi forces, while enabling the flow of humanitarian relief supplies. He said the first step -- imposing a no-fly zone - had been achieved, with little worry of Gadhafi shooting down allied patrols. But it was unclear how long the military effort would go on, or on what scale.
“I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future,” the admiral said on ABC's “This Week.” “I wouldn’t speculate in terms of length at this particular point in time.” He said early results were highly encouraging, with no known U.S. or allied losses and no reported civilian casualties.