Senior Republican ups criticism of Obama on Libya

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:02pm EDT

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican in Congress on Wednesday sharpened his criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of military operations in Libya, pressing Obama over the mission's cost, leadership and exit strategy.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, in a letter to the Democratic president, asked Obama how he would measure success in Libya and whether Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had to depart before the U.S. military involvement ends.

Obama is facing increasing unease in the U.S. Congress over the Libya operation, control of which the United States is seeking to relinquish in the coming days.

Boehner did not quibble with the idea of protecting civilians in Libya against attacks by Gaddafi's forces. But he expanded on concerns he initially raised on Sunday about a lack of clarity and consultation regarding the mission.

He also asked Obama if the Pentagon has made an estimate of the financial cost of the mission, how long American forces will remain involved after U.S. control is relinquished, and whether the United States will assume a greater or lesser role if the current coalition carrying out the mission falls apart.

"I respect your authority as Commander-in-Chief and support our troops as they carry out their mission," Boehner wrote.

"But I and many other members of the House of Representatives are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission."

Obama wrote to Congress on Monday saying that the strikes on Libyan government forces and air defenses are aimed at preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya. The effort began on Saturday after the U.N. Security Council last Thursday approved a resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya.

A key question from Boehner was whether Obama thought it acceptable for Gaddafi to stay in power after the military operations against his forces end -- and if not, "how will he be removed from power?"

"What is your benchmark for success in Libya?" he asked.

CONSULTING WITH FOREIGNERS

Boehner noted that while Obama has said Gaddafi should go, the U.N. resolution does not insist on this. Such a resolution, the House speaker said, "does not substitute for a U.S. political and military strategy."

While the Obama administration has "consulted extensively" with foreign entities such as the Arab League and the United Nations, it has made a "limited, sometimes contradictory" case for the mission to the American people, Boehner said.

He said it was not clear how soon the United States expects to hand over control of operations in Libya to international partners, which ones would take the lead, or how long U.S. military forces would stay engaged.

Criticism of Obama has come from across the U.S. political spectrum for not consulting more with lawmakers before launching the Libya operation. The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, issued a statement on Wednesday saying U.S. participation in the Libya effort "is strengthened by the president's continued consultation with Congress."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has invited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or another U.S. official to testify about Libya next week, a House aide said.

In the Senate, Republican Senator Richard Lugar asked Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry to hold hearings on the Libya intervention, saying lawmakers need to be able to ask the administration about the goals and strategy.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

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Comments (42)
USAPragmatist wrote:
Get over yourself Boehner, go cry about it to someone.

Republicans have ZERO basis to give Obama flak for what he has done in Libya after their leadership got us involved in Iraq without a clear plan and without the coalition that Obama has in this case.

In fact the USA has not been the one pushing for intervention in Libya, the USA went along because we have unique military capabilities that allow for less risky implementation of the no-fly zone to both coalition pilots and Libyan civilians.

In this specific case Obama has done everything right.

Mar 23, 2011 5:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
auger wrote:
“…a copy of which was released to the media by Boehner’s aides,…”
He’s probably torn between the desire to keep other human beings safe from massacre, and the pressure to elect a new president from his own party. Troubled indeed.

Mar 23, 2011 5:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
markfxgruber wrote:
The media has reported that Mr. Khaddafi has employed numerous mercenaries from Sub-Saharan countries. Cannot the rebel alliance or their western backers let it be effectively known that they will DOUBLE the wages of the soldiers to come on board with them? They could triple the wages of the mercenary leadership even…It would still cost less than the war by air that the west is waging. These soldiers are already there on the ground and many might welcome the chance to change sides rather than look utterly immoral to their own people by becoming the murderers of freedom loving Libyans.

Mar 23, 2011 6:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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