Gates Stresses U.S. Support Role in Libya

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) 

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