Obama: U.S. Policy on Libya Is That Gadhafi Needs to Go

Speaking at news conference in Chile, U.S. president said objective in Libya is to guard civilians from Gadhafi, not oust him; U.S. to transfer lead military role to other allies in matter of days.

United States President Barack Obama said on Monday that the U.S. policy on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi is that he "needs to go."

Speaking at a news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, Obama said the military objective in Libya is to guard civilians from attacks by Gadhafi, not oust him from power.

Obama - Reuters - March 21, 2011

Obama also added that the U.S. expects to transfer the lead military role in Libya to other allies in a matter of days.

Of the transfer in operations, Obama said: "We anticipate this transition to take place in a matter of days and not in a matter of weeks."

"Obviously, the situation is evolving on the ground, and how quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendation of our commanding officers that the first phase of the mission has been completed,"Obama said.

Chile is the second of three stops on Obama's South American trip that coincides with the beginning of an international effort to create a no-fly zone to keep Gadhafi forces from taking to the air over parts of Libya. The United States has fired close to 150 cruise missiles against Libyan targets in the past three days, including one that hit inside the compound in Tripoli where Gadhafi and his family live.

The destruction within the compound has generated questions about the objective of the military campaign, and Obama described how the United States was leading an air assault with one set of goals while pursuing another objective on its own.

"Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Col. Gadhafi to his people. Not only was he carrying out murders of civilians but he threatened more," the president said.

The president also said he had not had second thoughts about beginning the air offensive while he was traveling outside the United States.

"Keep in mind we were working on very short time frame, and we had done all the work and it was just a matter of seeing how Gadhafi would react to the warning I issued on Friday. After consulting with our allies we decided to move forward, and it was a matter of me directing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others to implement plans already drawn up," Obama said.