ABC News' Stephanie Smith reports:
The White House is touting the time it took to overthrow Libyan tyrant Muammar Gadhafi – a subtle bit of horn-tooting for the administration at a time when there’s not much else to brag about.
“I think that time frame is actually pretty remarkable, that you could see a regime that had been in place and in power for 42 years be…overthrown in six months,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this morning in a briefing on Martha’s Vineyard where the president is vacationing.. “I think that's significant. And I think the pace of that change is pretty remarkable,” Earnest said.
Earnest described Gadhafi’s grip on power as having “slipped,” which seemed to be slightly backing off what the president said on Monday, that Gadhafi’s power had “unraveled. But Earnest denied there was any difference – that the situation on the ground is the same – Gadhafi is no longer in charge in Libya. Gadhafi’s whereabouts remain unknown.
“It's clear that the rebels have made a lot of progress in just the last few days, but it's also clear that there's -- there is some fighting that's going on in locations there. It's not a safe place right now,” Earnest continued.
The president is monitoring the changing conditions on the ground in Libya through many sources including media reports and open-source reporting such as Facebook and Twitter, according to Earnest. The U.S. is also maintaining close contact with the rebel leadership, the Transitional National Council.
The unloosening grip of Moammar Gadahfi’s 42-year reign is in part due to the will of the Libyan people, Ernest said, conceding that “progress has no doubt been aided by the efforts of NATO and our partners in the region who have provided some pretty significant support on that front.”
As for where the wanted dictator is hiding, Earnest says, “there’s still no evidence to indicate that he has left” the country.
In preparations for a post-Gadahfi Libya, Earnest pointed to the fact that the U.S. is trying to unfreeze some of those Libyan assets – about $1.5 billion -- that were frozen as part of the embargo the U.S. put in place a few months ago. Those revenues will be used for humanitarian assistance and to help support the TNC in getting structured.
“That is obviously meaningful support that would be helpful to them,” Earnest noted. “But in terms of any sort of additional commitment of resources, I don't have anything for you on that at this point.”
The TNC was recognized by President Obama a few months ago as the proper ruling entity in Libya and the administration plans to be a partner and support their efforts to put in a governmental structure and transition in the new Libya. Ernest concedes, that this “is not something that will be easily implemented. But what I can tell you is that we do have confidence in the TNC.”