From the White House: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon discusses U.S. transfer of command to NATO.
MR. DONILON : [W]e would then transfer, as the President has said, in a matter of days, not weeks, over to coalition partners using the NATO machinery the responsibility for the ongoing exercise of those activities. And the United States at that point would be in a supporting role of that mission that could include the kinds of things that I talked about — that we, again, have very unique attributes — and in the service of helping allies move and partners move to enforce this resolution we feel very comfortable providing. And that is jamming, intel, refueling, and other kind of specialized kinds of support that we can. …
[Chip Reid, CBS News]: It seems like an unusual kind of construction. Can you explain a little bit what’s going on within the coalition? Is it correct that France had said they don’t want to use NATO? Were these first strikes that were done without the support of or endorsement of other members of the coalition? And in the same vein, can you also address — is the reason that we have one command now and we’ll move to something else in a matter of days because of the urgency with which this operation was undertaken? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to just start with a unified command?
MR. DONILON: Well, a couple points. Let me take them in reverse. The second question is yes. That was a unique capability the United States had to get this up and running in the face of an emergency situation. And it was effective and most efficient to do that. Even though, as you said, you had at the beginning the French prepared to go out and begin to operate above Benghazi and the UK indicating that they would do that, they both indicated that as asset that the United States could bring was that command and control from the beginning — giving the nature of our assets in the Mediterranean.
And so that’s exactly right, that that was kind of a unique capability that we could bring. In addition to that, though, that command and control supported the whole range of capabilities we had that could be brought to bear at the outset of the operation — things like an ability in a very broad way, in a very effective and efficient way over the course of a single evening last night to go at all the — or most of the air defense assets, and simultaneously to be able to go at the air assets themselves — the airplanes and others and bunkers and things like that — to be able to put up the communications kinds of assets that you want to have in an operation like this so that things are deconflicted and they work in a coordinated way.
So that’s — I think that’s exactly right. That was a unique capability we could bring, we could bring it now. It enabled the other assets to be able to be brought to bear right now.
On the second question, it is going to be — the French and others agreed at NATO to have NATO take on the command and control of this operation at some point during, as I said, not days — not weeks, but days.
Excerpts from press briefing in Rio de Janeiro by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and Press Secretary Jay Carney on the Situation in Libya. (photo: Getty)