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TRANSCRIPT: DOD News Briefing with Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen from the Pentagon
<i>Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen answered questions during a DOD news briefing, March 1, 2011. Gates explained that several Navy ships were directed to the Mediterranean to assist with
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen answered questions during a DOD news briefing, March 1, 2011. Gates explained that several Navy ships were directed to the Mediterranean to assist with emergency evacuations and humanitarian relief.

"There is no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force," said Gates. "And the kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second- and third-order effects. So they need to be considered very carefully."

With respect to a potential no-fly zone, Mullen explained that it's an extremely complex operation.

"We did it in Iraq for many years, north and south. And certainly if we were to set it up, if that were something that was decided to do, we'd have to work our way through doing it in a -- in a safe manner and certainly not put ourselves in jeopardy in doing that." Following are excerpts from the briefing. View the complete transcript at http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4777. SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, I have directed several Navy ships to the Mediterranean. The USS Kearsarge and the [USS] Ponce will be entering the Mediterranean shortly and will provide us a capability for both emergency evacuations and also for humanitarian relief. About 1,400 Marines from the Kearsarge are serving in Afghanistan. And so we are sending about 400 Marines from the U.S. that will be in support of the Kearsarge's mission. So those are the actions that we have taken at this point. We're obviously looking at a lot of options and contingencies. No decisions have been made on any other actions. I would -- I would note that the U.N. Security Council resolution provides no authorization for the use of armed force. There is no unanimity within NATO for the use of armed force. And the kinds of options that have been talked about in the press and elsewhere also have their own consequences and second- and third-order effects. So they need to be considered very carefully. Our job is to give the president the broadest possible decision space and options, and to go into the things that we're thinking about, the options that we're providing, I think, have the potential to narrow his decision space. And I have no intention of doing that. ------------ Q: Mr. Secretary, what are those second- and third-order consequences that you're talking about as a result of any possible U.S. military intervention? And if I could also, to the admiral, this morning up on Capitol Hill, CENTCOM Commander General Mattis said enforcing a no-fly zone would actually involve U.S. military operations in taking out air defense systems before the fly zones could be enforced. Is that the case? Would the U.S. military have to actually launch airstrikes before those no-fly zones could be effectively enforced? SEC. GATES: Well, first of all, all of these -- all of the options beyond the humanitarian assistance and evacuation are complex. And you know, the second and third-order consequences, I think, derive from the fact that they are complex. And you know, for example, if we -- if we move additional assets, what are the consequences of that for Afghanistan, for the Persian Gulf? And what other allies are prepared to work with us in some of these things? So I think those are the -- those are some of the effects that we have to think about. We also have to think about, frankly, the use of the U.S. military in another country in the Middle East. So I think we're sensitive about all of these things, but we will provide the president with a full range of options. ADM. MULLEN: And with respect to the no-fly zone specifically, it's an extraordinarily complex operation to set up. It has been done historically. We did it in Iraq for many years, north and south. And certainly if we were to set it up, if that were something that was decided to do, we'd have to work our way through doing it in a -- in a safe manner and certainly not put ourselves in jeopardy in doing that. And then that gets to what General Mattis said about, obviously, putting us in a position, you know, over air defenses that could actually harm -- you know, take our -- take those aviation assets out of the air. But again, that's -- at this point, this is -- there are an awful lot of people talking about this. There's -- there has been, I think, increasing -- I guess, a desire to understand it specifically. But there are many, many things, as the secretary said, that we're looking at for contingencies, and absolutely no decisions made with respect to that. Q: Do you think it's likely? Do you think it's likely? ADM. MULLEN: I wouldn't speculate on that at all, Jim. ------------ Q: Do you have any requests from rebel leaders for air strikes from NATO -- have you heard of any of that? SEC. GATES: No. ------------ Q: Mr. Secretary and Admiral Mullen, based on what you've seen to date, do you have any reason to think that Gadhafi would be prepared to leave voluntarily, or do you think that some form of force, whether it is rebels, whether ultimately it's U.N. sanctions, Western intervention, whether some form of force would be needed to push him out of power? SEC. GATES: Well, all I can say is that sometimes you actually have to listen to what people say. And he's saying he's not leaving. (Laughter.)
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