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Obama Contends With Mission Creep In Libya

Kevin Douglas Grant |
March 24, 2011 | 10:20 a.m. PDT

Executive Editor

American airstrikes against Moammar Gaddafi's Libya that one Democratic congressman thought would last just a week or less are now likely to continue for several weeks or more.

President Obama, already at the helm of massive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is already feeling the first stirrings of what could become a firestorm of criticism if U.S. involvement in Libya isn't quickly ratcheted down.

An AP analysis puts the situation succinctly: "Less than a week [after the invasion], the mission has been clouded by confusion and questions about who's in charge and who's doing what - all while the killing of civilians is going on."

Part of the confusion comes from the top.  The U.S. had planned to hand over control of the operation to NATO, but NATO is not convinced that it should take over, Der Spiegel reports:

"At a meeting on Monday, NATO ambassadors failed to agree on whether the alliance should take control of the mission. NATO involvement would require approval by all 28 members.

France has opposed handing control to NATO because of Arab skepticism about the alliance, which is perceived as being dominated by the US."

Meanwhile, the Arab League has been slow to join in, leaving the current participants holding the bag.  With House Speaker John Boehner already breathing down his neck, Obama will also need to answer to Congressional Democrats and the general public.  

There is a growing fear that America is getting more than it bargained for.  And with Pentagon funds for the mission already strapped, according to the Washington Post, even Obama's allies are warning him to tread carefully.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told MSNBC: "If the attacks in Libya on the government forces there continue for three weeks or a month, there will be way more than just concern. There will be anxiety, perhaps anger. He needs to face the nation and tell the nation and tell Congress what the end game is and how this is going to play out."

Obama didn't attain Congressional approval for the Libyan mission, which is being coordinated with France and Britain and has successfully implemented a no-fly zone in Libya.

Unfortunately for those expecting a quick victory, Gaddafi's tanks and soldiers continue to attack rebels and civilians on the ground.  Obama has promised that he will not deploy ground troops in Libya, and the French foreign minister is assuring the world that the operation will end in "weeks, not months."

With the American Congress coming back into session next week, Obama will need to get his ducks in a row, drawing on the popularity of the mission's goals while reassuring critics about its span and scope. 



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