Home inContext “Mission Creep” in Libya

“Mission Creep” in Libya

Samara Greenberg

The Libyan rebels’ Transitional National Council (TNC) will be opening a representative office in Washington after accepting an invitation from President Barack Obama. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, speaking from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi Tuesday, said that the United States is no longer talking to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and that it views the TNC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

This new effort is part of the international community’s plan to break the stalemate that has overcome its mission in Libya as Qaddafi holds on to his power in the western part of the country. On Sunday, the BBC reported that the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, opened an EU office in Benghazi. And on Tuesday, Jordan joined France and Italy in officially recognizing the TNC.

Libyans attend a rally in support of the TNC in Benghazi.

Also on Tuesday, NATO launched its heaviest attack yet against Qaddafi, setting off more than 20 explosions in the area around the dictator’s compound in central Tripoli. The bombardment came one day after Gérard Longuet, France’s defense minister, announced that France and Britain will provide NATO with attack helicopters.

The goal for the mission in Libya has seemingly become ousting Qaddafi, though doing so was not explicitly stated as part of the original mission adopted by the UN Security Council in March. Not to say that ousting the tyrant would be a negative development, but the Libyan mission has become a perfect example of how not setting a specific goal at the start easily creates a situation of “mission creep.” Instead of touting his international coalition building skills, perhaps it would be best if President Obama demonstrated some leadership.