Dem: US mission in Libya now clearer

The United States' mission in Libya has become much more defined in the last week or so, the ranking member of the House Armed Services committee said Monday.

In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said administration officials have been able to give a better explanation for American involvement in enforcing the no-fly zone.

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"I think it has become a lot clearer in the last eight to nine days what exactly the mission is and where we're going," Smith said.

Smith said that when the U.S. first began the airstrikes, he had "big concerns" about the reasons for an American presence in Libya. Since then, he said, top administration officials have been able to clarify the U.S.'s goal to protect civilians from military forces led by Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

Since the airstrikes began, lawmakers across the political spectrum have criticized President Obama for a variety of reasons. Some have argued the U.S. went in without a clear exit strategy or mission while others charged that Obama intervened without properly going to Congress beforehand.

The administration has responded that Obama acted quickly alongside other nations and pointed out that top congressional lawmakers were briefed at the White House on March 18.

Smith called most of that criticism "contradictory" at this point. He said Obama's decision was swift but also deliberative.

"Much of the criticism is contradictory," Smith said. "I think at this point it's pretty clear the president took the time to make the right decision."

The administration has said that its primary goal has been to protect Libyan civilians and allow rebel forces the opportunity to strengthen themselves enough to overthrow Gadhafi. Last week Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that it was important for the Libyans to overthrow Gadhafi themselves.

Still, American forces have bombed Gadhafi's compound and American officials, including Obama, have called for Gadhafi's ouster. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that peace in Libya would be difficult with Gadhafi in power.

Last week the multinational coalition enforcing the U.N. resolution announced that the U.S. would hand over the lead in the mission to NATO.