Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. military campaign against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi should be limited to the terms of a United Nations resolution rather than being broadened to target the leader directly.
The coalition with the U.K., France and Arab countries relies on the terms laid out in the UN Security Council resolution adopted last week, Gates told reporters traveling with him to Russia today on a trip he delayed yesterday so he could monitor the start of “Operation Odyssey Dawn.” The resolution backed military action to prevent Qaddafi from using his forces to attack fellow Libyans.
“If we start adding additional objectives, then I think we create a problem in that respect,” Gates said. “I also think that it is unwise to set as specific goals things that you may or may not be able to achieve.”
The UN resolution backed military action to prevent Qaddafi from using his forces to attack fellow Libyans.
Whether the U.S. and its partners in the coalition should aid the Libyan rebels directly “remains to be seen,” Gates said. “This is basically going to have to be resolved by the Libyans themselves,” he said, citing the U.S.’s political approach to revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and other nations in the region.
The U.S. expects to turn over the “primary responsibility” for the operation to others “in a matter of days,” Gates said.
“We will have a military role in the coalition. But we will not have the pre-eminent role,” Gates said. “And the president felt strongly, I would say, about limiting the scale of U.S. military involvement in this.”
Gates said he’s confident that multiple Arab states will participate in the military coalition.
“We received strong indications from several Arab states that they would participate,” Gates said. “This is a new endeavor for them and the notion that it takes a while to get it organized and get there shouldn’t be a surprise.”
Obama has made it a priority to mend relations with Russian leaders, which fell to their lowest point since the Cold War in the aftermath of Russia’s 2008 invasion of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Gates has said he plans to leave office this year.
Gates’s visit would be his fourth and last to Russia as secretary of defense, and brings him back to a country he studied both as a doctoral student at Georgetown University in Washington and as one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s “cold warriors” in the 1980s. The defense chief has said he plans to leave office this year.
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