Gates: Attacking Libya Was Not a ‘Vital Interest’ to the US


robert-gatesLibya was not an imminent threat to the United States when the president ordered the American military to participate in airstrikes against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said today.

“No, no. It was not,” Gates said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question that was at stake.”

Gates said that the no-fly zone had been established and the Libyan leader’s forces have been pushed back, and he said the U.S. forces that have command and control of the strikes were preparing to step back after a little more than one week.

“We and the Department of Defense are already beginning to do our planning in terms of beginning to draw down resources,” Gates said. “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.”

NATO will be taking over the lead role in the next step, which is protecting Libyan civilians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“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,” Clinton said. “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.”

{The Hill/ Newscenter}