Levin: No ‘clear sentiment’ in Senate to end American role in Libyan campaign

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Friday said he doubts a majority of senators would vote to end U.S. participation in the Libyan military campaign.

“I think there’s not a clear sentiment here to stop our support of the Libyan operation,” Levin told reporters after getting a classified briefing on the operation from Pentagon officials. “I don’t think there’s a majority view to that effect, or anything close to it.”

Levin called predicting whether the Senate would take up a resolution on the Libya operation “unpredictable,” noting senators have “plenty of opportunity” to introduce such measures.

The House already, in a close vote, passed a resolution offered by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that criticized President Obama’s handling of the Libyan operation. Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have introduced a similar measure in the Senate.

Levin has signed on to a resolution crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) voicing support for the campaign. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, canceled a markup of that measure last week due to differences among members of his panel.

Levin is a co-sponsor of the Kerry-McCain bill. Those who oppose it, he said, could file their own resolutions “and probably could get them voted on under the expedited procedure” provided by the War Powers Act.

“There are opportunities here if people want to take them,” Levin told reporters.

Levin and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) agreed that a Senate resolution might not be necessary.

“This is a fait accompli,” Sessions told reporters after he emerged from the secure briefing. “The administration has gone off with this operation that, hopefully, will be successful.”

Sessions said he didn’t know what should be in a resolution.

U.S. forces seem to be “carrying the largest load in the operation,” including in “the NATO command,” Sessions said. “Some people seem to think it’s the British and French running this thing. We’re doing most of the work and our commanders are in charge of it — we might as well acknowledge that.

“I would say we’re flying much more than any other nation, including all the TASC,” he said, using military shorthand for tactical air support missions. “We’re not doing the actual strike operations,” which are being done by NATO aircraft, he added.

Overall, he called the session with Pentagon officials “not a very clarifying briefing.”

Levin and Sessions were the only Senate Armed Services Committee members at the briefing — due to “late notice,” Levin said — and they offered differing views of the briefing and the operation in Libya.

But Levin seemed pleased with what he heard.

The NATO missions there “are going well, they’re coordinated ... and NATO has lost no personnel,” Levin told reporters. “The key is [that] this be sustained. That’s going to require NATO countries who have not participated the way they said they would to come through with greater participation.”

Overall, “things are going in the right direction,” Levin said following a classified briefing led by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy.

But Sessions had a different take, saying minutes earlier: “All this is just cobbled together.”

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s military forces have been “severely degraded” and the embattled leader has been “significantly weakened” politically, Levin said.

Based on what the Pentagon officials said during the closed-door session, Levin said U.S. forces are in a “support role,” providing aerial tankers, intelligence-gathering and protection of NATO forces, such as through Predator drone strikes.