WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S.-led military action in Libya has bolstered rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi's forces, but the international operation could continue for months, the Obama administration says.
Ahead of President Barack Obama's national address Monday to explain his decision to act against the Libyan leader, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in appearances on the Sunday talk shows that the intervention had effectively rendered Gadhafi's forces defenseless against air attacks and created the conditions for opposition advances westward.
In interviews taped Saturday, Gates and Clinton also defended the narrowly defined U.N. mandate to prevent atrocities against Libyan civilians and said the U.S. had largely accomplished its goals.
"We have taken out his armor," Gates said, adding that the U.S. soon would relinquish its leading role in enforcing a no-fly zone and striking pro-Gadhafi ground targets intent on violence.
Gates said the no-fly zone was fully in place and could be sustained with "a lot less effort than it took to set it up." He said the Pentagon was planning how to draw down resources that will be assigned to European and other countries pledging to take on a larger role.
But asked on ABC's "This Week" if that would mean a U.S. military commitment until year's end, Gates said, "I don't think anybody knows the answer to that."
The lack of clarity on that question reflects a worry for lawmakers clamoring to hear fuller explanations from the administration on why the U.S. was embroiling itself in another Muslim conflict and what the ultimate goals of the intervention are.