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Obama: Libya Mission is Succeeding

US President Barack Obama delivers his weekly address, March 26, 2011
US President Barack Obama delivers his weekly address, March 26, 2011

President Barack Obama says the military mission by the United States and its allies to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone in Libya is working.  The president plans to speak to the American people late Monday about the operation.

President Obama says that one week into the mission, U.S. and allied forces are successfully protecting civilians from attacks by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

"We are succeeding in our mission," he said.  "We have taken out Libya’s air defenses.  Gadhafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya.  In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Gadhafi threatened to show ‘no mercy,’ his forces have been pushed back."

In his weekly address to the nation, Obama said the joint effort is showing results, and Libyan civilians have expressed gratitude.

"Because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians - innocent men, women and children - have been saved," he said.

The president’s message was intended to reassure Americans about the purpose and effectiveness of the mission in Libya.

A Gallup opinion poll taken Monday shows 47 percent of Americans approve of the operation, while 37 percent disapprove.  Separately, a CBS survey indicates that 50 percent of Americans agree with Obama’s handling of the situation, while 29 percent do not.  Gallup says its approval figure was lower than for other U.S. military campaigns in the past four decades.  

White House officials deny criticism by some lawmakers - both Republicans and members of Obama's own Democratic Party - that the president did not seek congressional authorization or adequately consult with lawmakers before embarking on the military action.

Some critics contend that Obama did not exhaust all diplomatic options before calling out the military.  They also say the U.S. cannot afford the cost of the conflict, and that the nation should not be taking on a mission Libya, when it is already involved in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House says urgent and quick action was needed in Libya and the president was well within his constitutional authority to take military action.

The U.S. is transferring leadership of the operation to NATO.  Obama said this is how the international community should work, with more countries assuming the responsibility and cost of the effort.

"Our allies and partners are enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea," said the president. "Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft.  And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners."

Obama briefed bipartisan congressional leaders Friday about the situation in Libya and transfer of command and control.  The president will explain the mission to the American people in an address late Monday.

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