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SecDef blasts Libya withdrawal resolution


Secretary Gates has a roll of stale jokes about how much he enjoys getting out of Washington, but even when he's thousands of miles away, he still can't escape it. (Until he breaks free for good when he retires at the end of the month.) Gates may be in Singapore for high level talks with American allies, but he's still dealing with Beltway politics and weighing in on the prospect that the House could vote to pull the U.S. out of the ongoing NATO operations in Libya.

Here's how POLITICO's Mike Allen broke it down:

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, issued a statement saying: “Secretary Gates believes that for the United States, once committed to a NATO operation, to unilaterally abandon that mission would have enormous and dangerous long-term consequences.”

A surprising number of Republicans have expressed support for the resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). The Associated Press said approval of the measure would be “a major embarrassment for President Barack Obama.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a news conference on Thursday that the issue will be involved within days. POLITICO reported that House Republicans are drafting alternative language.

“Members are a bit wary about the amount of money that we’ve spent in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and what we’re spending in Libya, and as a result really are wondering what’s our vital national security interest there,” Boehner said.

Traveling with Gates on an overseas farewell tour ahead of the secretary’s June 30 retirement, Morrell said Gates is “concerned” over the prospect of Congress voting against U.S. support for NATO operations in Libya.

“Once military forces are committed, such actions by the Congress can have significant consequences,” Morrell said. “It sends an unhelpful message of disunity and uncertainty to our troops, our allies and, most importantly, the Qadhafi regime.”

Obama's opponents in Congress worked themselves into a fury when they claimed they hadn't been properly consulted about the Libya operation; they dragged Gates and Adm. Mullen up to the Hill for a grueling full day of harangues. At the time, Republicans and even some Democrats said they didn't think Congress would endorse the Libya intervention if it were put to a vote, and now it appears, with the War Powers Act timeline expired, that very vote could be in the works.

What do you think -- does Congress need to vote on Libya in order for American involvement to continue, or can the U.S. keep up its involvement as is? And would a House vote against the Libya operation hurt the U.S., or just be seen as a partisan stunt?

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