Adm Mike Mullen: Good morning, David.

David Gregory:: Admiral, are we at war with Libya?

Adm Mike Mullen: We are—actually started yesterday limited operation and, and narrow in scope focused on supporting the United Nations Security Council resolution which very specifically focused on humanitarian efforts protecting the civilians in Libya. And I’d also say that operations yesterday went, went very well. Certainly, the, the—in, in putting in place a no-fly zone, which is what we’re, what we’re doing right now. And, effectively, he hasn’t had any aircraft or helicopters fly in the last couple days. So effectively that no-fly zone has, has been put in place.

David Gregory:: But just to speak plainly about it, as you’ve said, any no-fly zone begins with an act of war. This is war against Libya.

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, what we did, certainly, is we took out his, his radars, his ability to, to, for the most part, attack us from the ground, and that’s how you start to set up a no-fly zone. Again, it’s very focused on ensuring that he can’t execute—continue to execute his own people. And we don’t see any indications of any kind of large-scale massacre at this particular point in time.

David Gregory:: Let’s look at the map here and talk about both the geography and some of the strikes. These are, according to the Defense Department, where some of the strikes are. Obviously Tripoli, which is where Gadhafi is. In Benghazi you don’t see any strike points on that particular map. We know from our reporting out of our own folks at the Pentagon that B-2 bombers were deployed, dropping some 40 bombs against air defense systems within Libya. What is the concentration in Tripoli vs. Benghazi?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, I think as you look at that, most of those targets were part of his air defense system. And we also hit some of his airfields—again, these—this—these are almost—they’re prerequisites for establishing a no-fly zone. And then we put combat air patrol, CAP, up above in various places, and we’ve got a—we’ve got—them aircraft stationed above Benghazi right now on a 24/7 basis. And then what, what we’ll see do—what we’ll do is we’ll move that, that capping capability, those aircraft, over time further to the west. But most of those strikes took out his air defenses and hit his airfields.

David Gregory:: Is there more to be done to limit his capacity to either attack planes or to attack rebels?

Adm Mike Mullen: Some of the engagements yesterday included attacking his forces on the ground in the vicinity of Benghazi, and clearly the objective will be to, to attack those forces and ensure they are unable to continue to attack the innocent civilians, which he was doing as recently as yesterday morning in Benghazi.

David Gregory:: What about civilian casualties? Libyan TV, as you might expect...

Adm Mike Mullen: Sure.

David Gregory:: ...has said there have been civilians hit.

Adm Mike Mullen: Sure.

David Gregory:: Have we—can we confirm that?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, all of these targets were looked at in terms of absolutely minimizing collateral damage. And the reports I’ve seen have indicated minimum collateral damage. I haven’t seen any reports of civilian, civilian casualties. And I think, true to form, what Gadhafi has done is—has put in place both human shields in some cases, as well as created or, or said that we have generated civilian casualties. I just haven’t seen it.

David Gregory:: What else do you expect him to do in the coming hours and days? There is a stockpile believed to be a mustard gas. He’s talked about lashing out using terrorism against Western interests. What do you expect?

Adm Mike Mullen: We’ve focused very heavily on, on the chemical capability that he has and don’t see any indication that that’s—that he’s moving on that. We, we’ve been focused on that for days. This is the—yesterday and, and today is the first phase of a multi-phase operation, but what we expected is him to stay down, not fly his aircraft, not attack his own people and to allow the humanitarian efforts, which is such a significant part of the United Nations resolution, to take place.

David Gregory:: The goal, as the president has stated it, is to protect civilians. But he’s also made it very clear that Gadhafi has to go. How, with this kind of limited military operation, can you achieve that goal?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, in the next few days, David—first of all, I would expect us to pass the leadership of the military operation to be led by those in the coalition, and that the United States, in particular, would support with unique capabilities, which could include jamming, intelligence support, the kinds of things that—tanker support for the aircraft, those kinds of things. And then to support the kind of humanitarian effort that I talked about. And then I think over time, obviously, Colonel Gadhafi’s going to have to—he’s going to have to make some decisions. Clearly, there’s been significant international isolation, significant sanctions, an arms embargo, an off—and, and a very broad coalition internationally to isolate him. And I think he’s going to have to make some choices about his own future at that point.

David Gregory:: But I mean, you know, we may have—maybe we had a lot of faith in him making the right choices since we’ve been after him for decades. He hasn’t done that. Do we have it in our interest and in our plans to go get him?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, I—certainly, we’ve looked at, as we prepared for this, all kinds of options. The president’s been very clear that we’re not going to put any boots on the ground. This isn’t about occupation in any way, shape or form.

David Gregory:: But what if doesn’t work? What if the goal of preventing civilian death, or the goal of getting him out of power doesn’t work? Why put that limit in place?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, I think certainly the no-fly zone will allow us to continue to both attack and monitor his forces. And, at least initially, it looks like it’s had a positive impact in terms of preventing further civilian casualties. And, and then I think that what happens next in speculating about that is there’s uncertainty associated with that. The whole idea’s to put as much pressure on this guy so he doesn’t continue to kill his own people, and isolate him internationally, which he is, I believe, more than he has ever been.

David Gregory:: But isn’t it a legitimate—it’s not just a diplomatic question, it’s a military question. If the goals do not prevent Gadhafi from going, what do we do? There’s the prospect of Gadhafi holed up in Tripoli, a divided Libya. This is not a sustainable strategy.

Adm Mike Mullen: This is—certainly the goals of this campaign right now again are limited, and it isn’t, it isn’t about seeing him go. It’s about supporting the United Nations resolution, which talked to limiting or eliminating the—his ability to kill his own people, as well as support the humanitarian effort.

David Gregory:: So the mission can be accomplished and Gadhafi can remain in power?

Adm Mike Mullen: That’s certainly, potentially, one outcome.

David Gregory:: Is this in our vital interest as a country?

Adm Mike Mullen: It’s—I think the president’s made it very clear that our national interests are tied to a country that is so close to us in the Mediterranean, that borders Egypt and Tunisia, two countries that are also undergoing significant change as we speak, and clearly, the focus on the humanitarian piece in terms of someone who has massacred his people in the past and preventing that. In that regard, it is.

David Gregory:: But there are also questions about the double standard here. Why do we make a move on Libya, and yet in Bahrain, where Saudis send troops in to help a monarchy, we stand back?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, again, this mission is very focused on Libya, and we’re paying a lot of attention to what’s going on in Bahrain and in the Persian Gulf as well. And the other thing is, each one of these countries, I think, is different. We’ve tried to focus on it in a different way. We’ve had a great friendship with Bahrain for, for many, many decades. We’ve got one of our main naval base—bases are there. And we’re working hard to support that, in a way, to certainly see a peaceful outcome there in terms of how it evolves when the Bahraini people are asking for change as well.

David Gregory:: Is it possible that it’s too late to really make a difference here? Had a no-fly zone been implemented a couple of weeks ago when the rebels had more momentum that that would have been the time to act and now it’s too late?

Adm Mike Mullen: Oh, I think that’s speculation, David. I just—I, I don’t know that going two weeks ago would have turned this one way or another. Essentially, I think it was important to have the international sanctioning, the United Nations resolution and, and the coalition, a broad coalition which both condemns him and actually acts against him in terms of implementing the specifics of the no-fly zone.

David Gregory:: How long will this go on?

Adm Mike Mullen: I—it’s hard to say how long it will go on. I actually—I mean, over the last 24 hours there’s been a significant amount of progress. As I said, effectively the no-fly zone has been put in place. We have halted him in the vicinity of Benghazi, which is where he was most recently on the march. And then it’s hard to say what’ll happen in the next few days or weeks.

David Gregory:: And what happens if Gadhafi goes? Are we prepared to see the rebels put forward a leader for that country?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, I’ve—we’ve actually been in touch with the opposition in terms of understanding what they want, but I think there’s certainly a lot of work to do to, to look at what the next steps would be with respect to what will happen in that country, and that would principally be left up to the people in Libya.

David Gregory:: A third war in a Muslim country, eight years after the invasion of Iraq, is this simply too much for the United States to take on?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, certainly, I’m very much aware of, of the, the significant steps we’ve taken and that this is a, certainly, another—an additional fight. That said, we’re more than capable of meeting the needs. Again, this is a, this is a limited, narrowly scoped mission, and we have the capability and capacity and, as has been the case for so long, we’ve got great, great people, and they’ve executed exceptionally well.

David Gregory:: Do I detect any reluctance from you, though?

Adm Mike Mullen: No. None whatsoever. None whatsoever. I mean, the president has said this is a mission to carry out, and we are, in fact, executing it and we can do that within the—you know, within even the, the, the challenges and stress that are presented broadly across the force.

David Gregory:: Is it possible that the United States will take a backseat in this effort very quickly?

Adm Mike Mullen: Well, they’re—we’re looking to, while leading it now, we’re looking to hand off that leadership in the next few days. This is a military operation, so that’s got to be done smoothly. There’s a coalition which has come together, a commitment to a coalition lead with respect to this, and we would expect that to happen in the near future. And then we will provide the kind of support and unique capabilities that I spoke to earlier.

David Gregory:: Admiral Mullen, we’ll be following it all closely. Thank you very much.

Adm Mike Mullen: Thank you, David.