The United States is focused on "limited objectives" as part of the coalition enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, and will take a "supporting role" in the coming days, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said today.
"The French were the first ones in yesterday, in terms of starting to establish the no-fly zone. The United States is taking the lead in terms of the coalition," Mullen told ABC News' "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour this morning. "And we look to, in the next few days, transition that to a coalition leadership."
Mullen said getting the no-fly zone in place "has been successful so far," taking out Libya's air defenses, and limiting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's ability to fly planes or continue marching forces toward the rebel-held Benghazi.
"We're very focused on the limited objectives that the president has given us and actually the international coalition has given us, in terms of providing the no-fly zone so that he cannot attack his own people, to avoid any kind of humanitarian massacre, if you will, and to provide for the humanitarian corridors, humanitarian support of the Libyan people," Mullen said.
Mullen did not say that removing Gadhafi from power was a direct objective of the no-fly zone, and would not speculate on the length of time needed for coalition forces to operate.
"I think circumstances will drive where this goes in the future," Mullen said. "It's had a pretty significant effect very early in terms of our ability to address his forces, to attack his forces on the ground, which we did yesterday outside Benghazi, and get the no-fly zone stood up."
In contrast, France's ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, said Gadhafi's removal was an objective of French support for a coalition attack on Libya, adding that the "moral and human reaction" to Gadhafi's attacks on Libyan citizens drove their leadership of coalition efforts.
"It was impossible to consider a victory of Gadhafi and Gadhafi taking Benghazi," Araud told Amanpour. "He was saying that they will search house by house. He was referring to rivers of blood. It was simply totally impossible to accept it.
"We want the Libyan people to be able to express their will," Araud added. "And we consider that it means that Gadhafi has to go."
Ali Suleiman Aujali, the former Libyan ambassador to the United States who resigned to join the opposition to Ghadafi's regime, agreed that removing Gadhafi from power was a central mission.
"Protection of the Libyan civilian [is] only achieved by one goal, that Gadhafi is not there, not only by stop his airplanes striking the people," Aujali said. "The dangers is Gadhafi himself.
"If this is not the mission, then they would just hit some airplane -- shot the airplanes down and then leave us this madman, killing his people without mercy," Aujali added.
Mullen said he does not believe Libya has a strong enough military capability to retaliate against the United States or its allies in the region, saying that the past 24 hours have shown that Libya has "not been a very effective force."