'This Week' Transcript: Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld

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So I think that we have prevented the large scale slaughter that was beginning to take place, has taken place in some places. And so I think that we are at a point where -- where the establishment of the no-fly zone and the protection of cities from the kind of wholesale military assault that we have seen certainly in the East has been accomplished and now we can move to sustainment.

CLINTON: You know, Jake, I would just add two points to what Secretary Gates said. The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in the resolution that it passed I think on March 1th. And that mission is on the brink of having been accomplished. And there was a lot of congressional support to do something.

There is no perfect option when one is looking at a situation like this. I think that the president ordered the best available option. The United States worked with the international community to make sure that there was authorization to do what we have helped to accomplish.

But what is quite remarkable here is that NATO assuming the responsibility for the entire mission means that the United States will move to a supporting role. Just as our allies are helping us in Afghanistan where we bear the disproportionate amount of sacrifice and the cost, we are supporting a mission through NATO that was very much initiated by European requests joined by Arab requests.

I think this is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in -- what has happened since March 1st and we're not even done with the month demonstrates really remarkable leadership.

GATES: I would just add one other thing in sort of a concrete manifestation where we are in this and that is we and the Department of Defense are already beginning to do our planning in terms of beginning to draw down resources. First from support of the no-fly zone and then from the humanitarian mission. Now that may not start in the next day or two, but I certainly expect it to in the very near future.

TAPPER: Well, I wanted to follow on that. How long are we going to be there in this support role?

GATES: Well, I think that, as I say, we -- we will begin diminishing the level of our engagement, the level of resources we have involved in this, but as long as there is a no-fly zone and we have some unique capabilities to bring to bear, for example, intelligence, surveillance and recognizance, some tanking ability, we will continue to have a presence. But a lot of these -- a lot of the forces that we will have available other than the ISR are forces that are already assigned to Europe or have been assigned to Italy or at sea in the Mediterranean.

TAPPER: I've heard NATO say that this -- they anticipate -- some NATO officials say this could be three months, but people in the Pentagon think it could be far longer than that. Do you think we'll be gone by the end of the year? Will the mission be over by the end of the year?

GATES: I don't think anybody knows the answer to that.

TAPPER: Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?

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