Following is a letter President Obama sent to the Senate and House leaders John A. Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell to update them on the United States’ military actions.
On March 21, I reported to the Congress that the United States, pursuant to a request from the Arab League and authorization by the United Nations Security Council, had acted 2 days earlier to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe by deploying U.S. forces to protect the people of Libya from the Qaddafi regime. As you know, over these last 2 months, the U.S. role in this operation to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 has become more limited, yet remains important. Thus, pursuant to our ongoing consultations, I wish to express my support for the bipartisan resolution drafted by Senators Kerry, McCain, Levin, Feinstein, Graham, and Lieberman, which would confirm that the Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya and that both branches are united in their commitment to supporting the aspirations of the Libyan people for political reform and self-government.
The initial phase of U.S. military involvement in Libya was conducted under the command of the United States Africa Command. By April 4, however, the United States had transferred responsibility for the military operations in Libya to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the U.S. involvement has assumed a supporting role in the coalition’s efforts. Since April 4, U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition’s efforts.
While we are no longer in the lead, U.S. support for the NATO-based coalition remains crucial to assuring the success of international efforts to protect civilians from the actions of the Qaddafi regime. I am grateful for the support you and other Members in Congress have demonstrated for this mission and for our brave service members, as well as your strong condemnation of the Qaddafi regime. Congressional action in support of the mission would underline the U.S. commitment to this remarkable international effort. Such a Resolution is also important in the context of our constitutional framework, as it would demonstrate a unity of purpose among the political branches on this important national security matter. It has always been my view that it is better to take military action, even in limited actions such as this, with Congressional engagement, consultation, and support.