While on vacation on Martha's Vineyard, the president made a brief statement this afternoon on the developing situation in Libya. Speaking to the small group of traveling press with him on the island, the president began by stating that he's been kept abreast of the situation despite being away from Washington:
I just completed a call with my National Security Council on the situation in Libya. And earlier today I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the extraordinary events taking place there. The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear: The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.
The president summarized U.S. military involvement in Libya, beginning with the "peaceful protests" earlier this year and culminating with international recognition of the Transitional National Council as the "legitimate governing authority in Libya." And then he outlined the current situation:
Over the last several days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point as the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom.
For over four decades, the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now, the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there is still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting.
Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.
As we move forward from this pivotal phase, the opposition should continue to take important steps to bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. As the leadership of the TNC has made clear, the rights of all Libyans must be respected. True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.
In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner. We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya. As remaining regime elements menace parts of the country, I’ve directed my team to be in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations to determine other steps that we can take. To deal with the humanitarian impact, we’re working to ensure that critical supplies reach those in need, particularly those who have been wounded.
Secretary Clinton spoke today with her counterparts from leading nations of the coalition on all these matters. And I’ve directed Ambassador Susan Rice to request that the U.N. Secretary General use next month’s general assembly to support this important transition.
The president also announced that the U.S. plans to support the TNC "with the assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen earlier this year."
After the statement the White House Press Office released a list of senior officials who participated in the president's NSC call. More than a call just on military strategy, the addition of members of the policy planning staffs from both the State Department and the Defense Department show that the administration continues to take a long-term approach to its involvement in Libya's next step.
Here's a list of the participants:
Chief of Staff William Daley
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld
Allied Joint Forces Commander Admiral Samuel Locklear
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy
Deputy CIA Director Michael J. Morell
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough
Asst. to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan
Chief of Staff and Counselor for the National Security Staff Brooke Anderson
Principal Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff Derek Chollet