Officials said the State Department would take the lead in coordinating
Libya's opposition in an effort to determine its immediate requirements.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she has scheduled meetings with
opposition groups for a discussion of their vision of a post-Gadhafi Libya.
"Before someone carries out an attack on Libyan civilians they need to
know they face a sharp choice and they need to know they'll be on the wrong
side of history and we will ensure they face the consequences," Donilon
In a briefing on March 10, Donilon outlined the administration's
strategy toward war-torn Libya. He said the United States has taken a series
of measures to help the opposition to Gadhafi and was developing a range of
military options against his regime.
"I want to underscore that we're suspending Libya's embassy in the
United States," Donilon said. "We're not accepting Gadhafi's
representatives in Washington. Over time, of course, this will really
squeeze and tighten the containment effort around Gadhafi, encourage and
provide incentives for those members of the Libyan government to
disassociate themselves from Gadhafi."
Officials said Washington plans to send disaster assistance relief teams
into eastern Libya. They said the United States has already been funding
about a dozen organizations to provide humanitarian relief, mostly through
At this point, Washington has drafted a range of options for military
intervention in Libya for discussion by NATO in mid-March. Officials cited a
NATO blockade of the Libyan coast of the Mediterranean Sea, arms embargo and
a no-fly zone. NATO has already approved complete air reconnaissance over
Libya and officials said additional measures would require Arab and African
"We're going to be seeking actual support by those nations — the Arab
League, the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and the African nations — to
participate in any of these efforts as they go forward," Donilon said.
"Again, not just rhetorical support, but actual participation, which we
think is absolutely critical."
Officials acknowledged that previous assessments of a rapid ouster of
Gadhafi proved incorrect. They said the opposition requires major help in
driving Gadhafi's forces out of huge portions of Libya as well as fomenting
strife with the regime in Tripoli. At this point, more than half of Libya
was said to still be under Gadhafi's control.
"It looks like it's evolving into a very uneven civil war," Adm. Mike
Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
The U.S. military and intelligence community has expressed the
likelihood that Gadhafi would defeat the opposition. National Intelligence director James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services
Committee that the revolt in Libya has reached a stalemate and that Gadhafi
could eventually win.
"Over the long term, the regime will prevail," Clapper said. "Gadhafi
is in this for the long haul."
The White House immediately disputed the intelligence assessment.
Officials said Clapper's remarks were based on a simple force-to-force
comparision, in which Gadhafi remained superior.
"He was making a hardheaded assessment about military capability," Obama
said on March 11. "And I don't think anybody disputes that Gadhafi has more
firepower than the opposition. He wasn't stating policy."