By Sam Youngman - 03/26/11 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama said Saturday that U.S. and international forces are succeeding in their mission of protecting the Libyan people from Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
In his weekly address, Obama defended his decision to intervene in Libya and emphasized that, with the support of the international community, the U.S. will play a limited role in the military action. The president’s taped message likely offered a preview of an address to nation he is scheduled to deliver Monday night.
Calling the mission "clear and focused," Obama said Americans "can be proud" that taking action saved Libyan lives.
"We’re succeeding in our mission," Obama said. "We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show 'no mercy,' his forces have been pushed back.
The White House has come under fire in recent days – from members of Congress and the public – for a lack of mission clarity. Saturday morning’s message, a Friday conference call with Congressional leaders and Monday’s speech are examples that the White House is trying to further explain it’s decisions about Libya.
The U.S. joined other countries in strikes against Libya one week ago while Obama was on a tour of Latin America. The president returned to intense criticism from Congress, which complained that the president had not sufficiently consulted them or outlined the mission.
While Obama hailed the contributions of American and international forces, he also warned that "the United States should not – and cannot – intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world."
"But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act," Obama said. "And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times."
The president emphasized in his address that the U.S. took the lead in the mission only at the beginning, and he stressed that NATO is in the process of taking over that responsibility.
"This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security," Obama said.
He added: "As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort."