WASHINGTON, May 16, 2011 — The United States has no intention of putting boots on the ground in Libya and should not become militarily involved in unrest shaking Syria, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in portions of an interview that aired on “The CBS Evening News” tonight.
CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric spoke with the secretary over the last several weeks, and portions of those interviews aired on the “60 Minutes” program last night.
Asked if the United States is at war with Libya, Gates said that from the U.S. standpoint, “we are involved in a limited, kinetic action.”
“If I were in [Libyan strongman Moammar] Gadhafi’s shoes, I would think I was at war,” he added.
Gates said “war” connotes what has taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last several years. “Our goal right now [in Libya] is actually very limited,” he added. “It is basically a support role.”
NATO has taken responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone against Gadhafi’s forces, and some European nations are providing military advisors to the Libyan rebels. Gates emphasized that President Barack Obama “has been very, very clear” that he has no plans to deploy U.S. troops there.
As to whether the United States should consider getting involved in enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, where President Bashar Assad’s regime continues a crackdown on protestors, Gates said such decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.
“I don’t think the United States ought to be militarily involved in Syria at all,” he said. “I think it would be unlikely that any other country would want to take that on, either.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)