President Barack Obama will today offer Congress and an anxious public his first detailed accounting of his rationale for United States military involvement in Libya and perhaps an answer to the burning question: what’s next?

His speech today comes after the Administration scored an important diplomatic victory with the approval by Nato ambassadors of a plan for the alliance to assume from the US command of all aerial operations, including ground attacks.

That will help Obama to assure Americans he can deliver on his vow that the US will be a partner in the military action against Libya, but not in the driver’s seat. Bickering among Nato members delayed the process.

Neither Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor Defence Secretary Robert Gates could say for sure yesterday how long the US mission would last or lay out an exit strategy.

Leading Republican legislators and some from within Obama’s own party are pressing him for more clarity about his goals.

Obama did not seek congressional authority before he took military action in Libya, nor did he consult closely with congressional leaders, and that is a sore point for legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Obama asserted in his weekly address on Sunday that the US mission was “clear and focused,” was succeeding, had taken out Gaddafi’s air defences and saved “the lives of countless citizens” who were threatened by the Libyan leader.

Polls have generally shown that most Americans support his decision to order the air strikes.

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