WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is offering Congress and an anxious public his first detailed accounting of his rationale for U.S. military involvement in Libya and perhaps an answer to the burning question: What's next?
His speech, set for 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday, comes after the administration scored an important diplomatic victory. NATO ambassadors on Sunday approved a plan for the alliance to assume from the U.S. command all aerial operations, including ground attacks.
That will help Obama assure the nation he can deliver on his promise that the United States will be a partner in the military action against Libya, but not from the driver's seat. Bickering among NATO members delayed the process.
Ahead of Monday's speech, Obama and his top national security officials worked to set the stage for the address — Obama in his weekly radio and Internet address, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates with appearances on Sunday television news shows.
But as they made the rounds, neither Clinton nor Gates could say how long the U.S. mission would last or lay out an exit strategy.
"I don't think anybody knows the answer to that," Gates told ABC News' "This Week" when asked pointedly about reports that some officials within the Pentagon believed the mission could last many months.
Clinton was asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" what would be an acceptable outcome given that Obama has both said that Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi must go and that he is not a military target. Would a partitioning of Libya be a possible solution? "I think it's too soon to predict," she said.
The interviews were conducted Saturday and aired Sunday.
Obama's speech from the National Defense University in Washington comes as leading GOP lawmakers and some from within Obama's own party are pressing him for more clarity about his goals.