That had always been Obama's plan, but it hit a snag amid feuding among some NATO members last week. Before Sunday's decision, NATO had only agreed to oversee enforcement of the no-fly zone. The new decision extends that authority to protecting from the air Libyan citizens being attacked or pursued on the ground by Gadhafi's forces.
"NATO allies have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the U.N. Security Council resolution," Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement. "NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. resolution. Nothing more, nothing less," he said.
Amid complaints that he was not consulting enough with Congress, Obama held a teleconference on Friday with a bipartisan group of key members of Congress. During the call, Obama and other U.S. officials emphasized that the U.S. military role would be decreasing.
Polls have generally shown that most Americans support Obama's decision to order the air strikes. A key remaining issue is whether Libya's rebels can gain ground under the protection of Western air support.
Libyan state television reported Sunday that international airstrikes were targeting Gadhafi's hometown and stronghold of Sirte for the first time.
Earlier Sunday, Gadhafi's regime lost further territory to rebels.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on the military intervention in Libya. Levin was broadly supportive of the president's steps so far, saying on CNN's "State of the Union" it "has set Gadhafi back. He's on his heels now."
Still, Levin said it was unclear how long the air campaign will have to last if Gadhafi clings to power.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a letter to the White House that Obama still must provide a clear and robust assessment of the mission and how it will be achieved.