March 24th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

White House defends Libya response

Alan Silverleib

Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration strongly defended its handling of the Libyan crisis Thursday, drawing a clear line between military and political objectives while dismissing criticism that it has failed to adequately consult with members of Congress.

"We are not engaged in militarily-driven regime change," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. Instead, the administration is engaged in "time-limited, scope-limited" action with other countries to protect civilians from forces loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

American armed forces will be transitioning to a "support and assist" role in the international coalition within a matter of days, he promised. U.S. ground troops will not be sent into Libya, he stressed.

A senior Western diplomat later confirmed that a formal agreement for NATO to take over the command structure of the U.N.-sanctioned military mission will be finalized as early as this weekend.

The goal of that mission is strictly to prevent a humanitarian crisis. President Barack Obama, however, has also said the administration's ultimate objective is Gadhafi's removal from power. U.S. officials have indicated they hope Gadhafi will be removed quickly by forces currently loyal to him, though they haven't publicly called for a coup.

Carney listed a series of recent meetings, hearings and briefings by top officials - including the president - with members of Congress on Libya. The list was produced in response to accusations by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others that the White House failed to properly consult with legislators before launching the Libyan mission.

Boehner sent a letter to the president Wednesday complaining that "military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission."

Carney said the administration has "endeavored to answer (Boehner's) questions already," and noted that the speaker received a classified intelligence briefing on March 14. He also accused some critics of being "perhaps driven by politics."

Carney indicated the president will continue to speak out on Libya "with relative frequency."

A Republican source, meanwhile, told CNN that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and National Intelligence Director James Clapper will deliver a classified briefing to members of Congress on March 30.

Hearings were also scheduled for the House Foreign Affairs and House Armed Services committees next week, according to a Democratic source.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. sharon fields

    I Am glad to hear that we r stepping back our military is already spread thin. YEs the USA is used to taking the lead on every its time for some of the other countries involved in NATO TO HAVE MORE RESPONSIBILTY.

    March 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm |