The ‘Limited’ US Role in Libya: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH – 5/24/2011

May 24, 2011 4:26pm

TAPPER: The letter in which the resolution is mentioned* suggests that the role is limited, the U.S. role is limited so that congressional authorization is not needed.  Are you expecting to hear from the French in the next stop and also tomorrow with Prime Minister Cameron a much harder sell for the U.S. to increase the mission back to providing the unique capabilities that the President talked about two months ago?

DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS BEN RHODES:  I think that the President, before the operation began, spoke to both President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron that the nature of that commitment would be limited in scope and duration and that we would hand over command from the United States to NATO, and that we would similarly hand over responsibility for the enforcement of the civilian protection mission and no-fly zone to our partners.

So that was the understanding from the beginning.  What we’ve said since then is that we — again, we would consult with NATO, consider requests, but that the nature of our commitment was always going to be limited in scope and duration.

I will say, however, that the contributions we’re making now are very significant to the mission.  We do have a unique capability, for instance around our intelligence, around our refueling capacity, around our ability to jam Libyan command and control, for instance.  So the things that we’re doing in support of the mission continue to be very important to its success. 

And again, we believe that that’s totally in line with the understandings that we’ve had with our allies throughout this effort.  And what these conversations are, are an opportunity to continue to make sure that we’re aligned, to continue to make sure that there is broad support for the mission, and to continue to talk through some of these other issues, which are very important, around how do we get support to the opposition, how do we make sure that the international community is preparing to support perhaps a transition to a post-Gadhafi Libya.  So there’s a whole host of issues associated with Libya that the leaders will be discussing.

*See this Friday blog post. 

-Jake Tapper

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