MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Mass., Aug. 24 (UPI) -- The Obama administration has concerns but also "confidence" Libyan rebels can achieve a peaceful transition once Moammar Gadhafi is deposed, a spokesman said.
Asked during the daily briefing on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, where the president is vacationing, whether there are concerns about the rebel Transitional National Council's ability to move forward peacefully and effectively, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest replied with a qualified affirmation.
"Sure, because this is -- the effort that is under way there is not something that will be easily implemented," he said. "But what I can tell you is that we do have confidence in the TNC. I mean, after all, it was this president who led the effort to -- several months ago, a couple months ago -- to recognize them as the proper ruling entity in that country. And we are encouraged by the way that they have conducted themselves so far.
"And we continue -- we intend to be a partner and to be supportive of their efforts to, like I said, put in a governmental structure and transition to a freer Libya."
Earnest said the administration was monitoring the situation in Libya through traditional media, as well as "Twitter, Facebook [and] other social media tools that are providing some insight into what's happening on the ground there."
"And then we've also -- and probably most importantly -- have been in close touch with the leadership of the TNC about what's happening on the ground there," he said.
Earnest acknowledged there is concern that Gadhafi regime weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
"Well, that's certainly something that we're monitoring closely, and that's one of the things that we are obviously closely consulting with the TNC about," he said.
Earnest was less specific about what form U.S. financial and human commitment to the new regime would take over the long haul. He noted the United States is freeing up $1.5 billion in Libyan assets that have been frozen to keep Gadhafi from using them.
"In terms of predicting the future, that's something I'm not going to get into from up here," he said. "But there are some things we can do, like releasing these frozen assets, that could be very beneficial to them, that actually doesn't involve, at this point, taxpayer assistance."
Asked if the American public should be ready for a five- or 10-year commitment akin to Iraq and Afghanistan, Earnest noted the situation is different in Libya.
"... Certainly, one of the things that's been different about this effort is that there are no -- there's no American military presence, in terms of boots on the ground, in Libya," he said.
"That's one of the things that's been remarkable about this operation, that the president was able to provide the kinds of leadership and support for the TNC in close coordination with our NATO allies and with our allies in the region, that we were able to make that kind of commitment without putting boots on the ground there. And that's something that we remain committed to, and that does distinguish it from the situation that exists right now in Iraq."
He said there is "a strong commitment from the American people to the people of Libya as they work to build the infrastructure that's needed to have a free and democratic Libya."
The days and years ahead won't all be smooth sailing in Libya, he said.
"In terms of the way forward, it will be a difficult -- there are difficult days ahead," he said. "There are difficult months ahead. There are difficult years ahead. But this is -- I should say this. As a tyrant in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi used the resources of his country to perpetrate horrible terrorist acts against Americans and people around the world."
He said there was no word on whether the administration believes there should be some kind of international force on the ground in Libya.