WASHINGTON — The Libya endgame is more “vital” to Europe than the United States, a former White House adviser said Sunday, and urged Arab and African allies to step up as Washington slims its role in the conflict.
Retired general James Jones, who until last October served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, acknowledged on Sunday talk shows that strongman Moamer Kadhafi’s ouster was the ultimate goal in the military campaign, but said there was little clarity on how that will be accomplished.
With the UN-approved military strikes against Kadhafi’s forces in their third week, the Pentagon has stepped back from a leadership role in the air campaign, stressing it does not want to engage in yet another major war.
Libya is “not a vital interest (to the United States) in the sense that it affects the vital security of the nation,” he told ABC News program “This Week.”
“It is more in the vital interest of Europeans… when you consider the effects of massive immigration, the effects of terror, the oil market.”
European countries, led by Italy, France and Germany, are the top consumers of Libyan crude, and total Libyan output amounts to less than two percent of world production.
A US-led coalition launched the first air strikes against Libya, but NATO began to take command of the air bombing operations last Wednesday.
“What we’re doing here is making sure that our allies also take on their share of responsibilities, which they are,” Jones told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
He said the United States was still flying “about 50 percent of the missions,” but mostly in support roles such as search and rescue and refueling.
The Arab world and Africa, players who “have much more influence on Kadhafi than we do,” must now step up, said Jones, who praised the involvement of nations such as Qatar, the first Arab state to fly sorties over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone.
Some Arab nations have been targeted for criticism for standing on the sidelines in the Libya crisis.
“The participation of the Arab League in this mission I think is hugely important, and the African Union has to step up also. This is their neighborhood, and they need to play a major role in how this is going to work out,” Jones said.
While Washington has insisted its involvement in Libya, where Kadhafi forces were threatening a bloodbath in rebel-held eastern cities, was meant to avert a humanitarian disaster, Jones said the true goal was the ouster of Kadhafi.
Exactly how that is accomplished has been a point of debate, and Jones appeared to reflect the growing frustration over the best way to achieve such a goal.
“We know that the ultimate — the end state — is to have regime change in Libya. And how you get there from where we are now… without the partitioning of Libya, without Kadhafi staying in power for a long period of time, that is the problem,” he told CNN.
“But unfortunately, most people want perfect clarity in a situation where clarity doesn’t exist.”