President Barack Obama told Americans last night the United States would work with its allies to hasten the day when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi leaves power, but would not use force to topple him.
In a nationally televised address, Obama — accused by many lawmakers of failing to explain the U.S. role in the Western air campaign against Gaddafi’s loyalists — made the case for his decision to intervene militarily in the Libya conflict.
But he also underscored the limits of U.S. military action as he sought to counter criticism that he lacked clear objectives and a credible exit strategy in the conflict.
“I can report that we have stopped Gaddafi’s deadly advance,” Obama said, 10 days after ordering U.S. participation in Western-led air strikes.
“We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power,” Obama said.
But he added that “it may not happen overnight” and acknowledged that Gaddafi may be able to cling to power. “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake,” he said.
Obama spoke on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to tackle the crisis in the North African oil-exporting country and weigh political options for ending Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.
Obama’s challenge was to define the limited purpose and scope of the U.S. mission in Libya for Americans preoccupied with domestic economic concerns and weary of costly wars in two other Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rebels push back Gaddafi forces
Rebels advanced west toward the birthplace Muammar Gaddafi on Monday, firing mortars and heavy machineguns in sporadic clashes with loyalist forces.
Emboldened by air strikes against Gaddafi’s troops, rebels took the town of Nawfaliyah and moved toward Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town and an important military base, in the sixth week of an uprising against his 41-year rule.
As rebels pressed forward in the east, Gaddafi’s troops were patrolling an area near the center of Misrata after shelling the previously rebel-controlled western city for days. Arab news networks reported Western air strikes in the west of Tripoli.
The government in Tripoli said it had “liberated” Misrata from rebels and declared a ceasefire there.