“The United Nations Security Council resolution was to protect the civilians in Benghazi specifically, and we’ve done that — we’ve started to do that,” Mullen said. “This is not about going after Gaddafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time. It’s about achieving these relatively narrow and limited objectives so that he stops killing his people.
“This particular military mission is focused on ensuring that he can’t kill his civilians and that we are able to support humanitarian efforts,” Mullen added. “We’re in the lead to move into a support role in the next few days. ... I haven’t been given a mission beyond the one I just described.”
Sen. Jack Reed defended this strategy during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” and said the Obama administration was correct to limit the U.S. military role in the operation. The Rhode Island Democrat attributed domestic pressure to rein in the federal deficit as among the reasons the White House was correct to let European and Arab forces take the lead in Libya.
“I think the president and his colleagues ... have done a superb job in building international support,” Reed said. “Without the Arab League’s endorsement I do not think there would have been a successful U.N. resolution and we would be frustrated now — and in fact we might have been pulled into this without the international support we need — not just militarily but financially, particularly at this critical moment when we’re struggling with the deficit.
“So I think the president’s leadership has created the conditions for an international coalition,” Reed continued. “We’re shaping the battlefield right now, initially we have that capacity. But we’ll be able to hand off very quickly to French, to Arab forces. ... That will send a strong signal to the Arab world that this is not about American interests, it’s about democracy in Libya.”
Mullen made the morning talk show rounds Sunday. He also appeared on “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”