Entries in Defense Secretary Robert Gates (3)


White House: Nobody Knows How Long Mission in Libya Will Last

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for almost ten years, at war in Iraq for almost eight years and at war in Libya for nine days.

Some NATO officials have suggested the U.S. will remain in Libya for three months, while people in the Pentagon think it could be much longer than that.

On This Week, ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper asked Secretary of Defense Gates if he thought the mission would be over by the end of the year, more than eight months away.

“I don't think anybody knows the answer to that,” Gates said.

Despite the uncertainty, President Obama recently reiterated his message that Libya would be a short military engagement.

“I said at the outset that this was going to be a matter of days and not weeks,” the President said at an appearance last week with the President of El Salvador. “And there’s nothing based on how we've been able to execute over the last several days that changes that assessment.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: Was Not 'Vital National Interest' to Intervene in Libya

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Libya did not pose a threat to the United States before the U.S. began its military campaign against the North African country.

On ABC's This Week, when asked if Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States, Gates responded, "No, no."

In a joint appearance with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, their first since the Libya operation began, Gates said, "It was not -- 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 explained that there was more at stake. "There was another piece of this though, that certainly was a consideration. You've had revolutions on both the East and the West of Libya," he said, emphasizing the potential wave of refugees from Libya could have destabilized Tunisia and Egypt.

During his campaign for the presidency, in December, 2007, Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Earlier in 2007, then-Senator Hillary Clinton said in a speech on the Senate floor that, "If the administration believes that any -- any -- use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority."

ABC News’ Jake Tapper asked Clinton, "Why not go to Congress?"

"Well, we would welcome congressional support," the Secretary said, "but I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago."

Gates said it is unknown just exactly how long operations in Libya would last. The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for almost ten years, at war in Iraq for almost eight years and at war in Libya for nine days.

On the humanitarian side, the defense secretary said significant progress has been made.

President Obama has called for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi's departure, but regime change is not one of the goals of the United Nations-led military operations. Tapper asked about this seeming inconsistency.

"So why not have, as part of the mission, regime change, removing Gadhafi from power?" Tapper asked the Secretary of Defense.

"Well, first of all, I think you don't want ever to set a set of goals or a mission -- military mission where you can't be confident of accomplishing your objectives," he said. "And as we've seen in the past, regime change is a very complicated business. It sometimes takes a long time. Sometimes it can happen very fast, but it was never part of the military mission."

Clinton emphasized the humanitarian rationale for the U.S. military intervention in Libya, recalling instances from recent history when a lack of U.S. intervention had left hundreds of thousands dead.

Clinton said that the United Nations-backed military intervention in Libya "is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in what has happened since March 1st, and we're not even done with the month, demonstrates really remarkable leadership."

Clinton also played out a hypothetical of what non-intervention by the United States might have looked like.

"Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands had fled and, as Bob [Gates] said, either with nowhere to go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult transition. And we were sitting here, the cries would be, why did the United States not do anything?" she said

"Why -- how could you stand by when, you know, France and the United Kingdom and other Europeans and the Arab League and your Arab partners were saying you've got to do something," Clinton said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates, Petraeus Joke About Launching Attack on Libya

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- After Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived at Kabul Airport Monday where he was greeted by General David Petraeus, microphones picked up the two men joking about launching an attack on Libya.

Petraeus and Gates shook hands after Gates arrived on his 13th trip to Afghanistan as Secretary of Defense.

"Welcome back, sir," Petraeus said to Gates. The two men began walking, and Patreus was overheard joking: "You returning to normal, you gonna launch some attacks on Libya or something?" 

"Yeah, exactly," Gates replied in jest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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