U.S. President Barack Obama told Americans that the military mission in Libya is clear, focused, and limited, and has saved countless lives.
Speaking in his weekly radio address to the nation on March 26, Obama called the military mission in Libya clear and focused on enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council.
"We've taken out Libya's air defenses. Qaddafi's forces are no longer advancing across Libya," he said. "Make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians -- innocent men, women, and children -- have been saved."
His remarks came in the run-up to a planned speech to Americans on March 28 to explain his country's involvement in the crisis. Both addresses follow complaints from senior politicians and lawmakers that the president has not consulted widely or hasn't clearly explained U.S. participation in the mission.
Obama said the United States cannot intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world, but, he said, that when innocent people are being brutalized, "when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region, then it’s in our national interest to act."
Western forces launched missile and air strikes against Qaddafi's air defenses and advancing troops on March 19 to keep him from acting on threats to attack his people. U.S. and other international forces continue to strike Qaddafi's forces and armaments with missiles and precision bombs and are enforcing a no-fly zone over the country and an arms embargo at sea.
Rebels Regain Ajdabiya
In fighting on March 25 and 26, Libyan rebels regained control of the city of Ajdabiya after international air strikes on Qaddafi's forces.
Correspondents report that on the road into the city -- which lies west of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi -- at least eight blackened Qaddafi tanks lay on the ground.
The Libyan Health Ministry says a total of 114 Libyans have died since the international air strikes began -- but the ministry gave no indication of how many of those killed were soldiers or civilians.
Next week, in his address, Obama is expected to emphasize a larger role for NATO and a lighter role for the U.S. military. The White House says that NATO is working on the details to assume control of the broader military mission.
Obama reiterated that Qaddafi must stop attacking civilians, pull back his forces, and allow humanitarian assistance to reach those who need it. He said Qaddafi has lost the confidence of the Libyan people and the legitimacy to rule, but did not call directly for Qaddafi's removal.
Russia Remains Critical
Meantime, Russia's top general has called the air strikes on Libya unsuccessful and said a ground operation would likely be needed to overthrow Qaddafi.
General Nikolai Makarov told Interfax news agency that "if their aim was to topple the regime of Qaddafi, then probably they will not manage without a ground phase."
The general's comments came after Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, warned that any ground operation would be classified as an occupation of Libya.
Russia abstained from last week's Security Council vote authorizing the use of international military force, but not ground troops, to protect civilians in Libya.
written by Abubakar Siddique, with agency reports