WASHINGTON -- Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen made the rounds of the morning talk shows on Sunday, and one of the main messages that emerged on Libya is that, right now, there just aren't many answers: how long the U.S. will stay involved, how long a no-fly zone will stay in place, and how much capacity the U.S. military has to sustain another conflict.
On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace pointed out to Mullen that with the U.S. at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were already concerns that America's armed forces were stretched too thin. "How can you take on a third operation?" asked Wallace. "Is something going to have to give?"
Mullen stressed that, at this point, the mission in Libya remains very "limited," and therefore, the U.S. military has been able to carry it out effectively.
"There is no one that understands better than I the stress and strain that we've been under for a long time in our 10th year of war both in Iraq and Afghanistan," replied Mullen. "That said, we are within our capability and capacity to be able to execute this mission. It is, as has been the direction given to me, it is limited, very focused and in that regard we are more than able -- as has been shown in the last 24 hours -- to carry it out and carry it out effectively."
But Mullen's answers illustrate how quickly the mission is moving, and how many questions remain unanswered.
When asked by Wallace how long America will remain involved in Libya, Mullen responded, "I don't have an exact date in mind, and I haven't been given a date by the president where U.S. military participation here would end."
When asked whether, at some point, forces will be ordered to take out Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Mullen said, "I wouldn't speculate what the mission might be in the future."
On ABC's "This Week," host Christiane Amanpour asked Mullen whether the current situation could up in a 12-year no-fly zone with a strongman in power, similar to what happened in Iraq. "Well, again, I think circumstances drive where this will go in the future," said Mullen. "I wouldn't speculate in terms of length at this point in time."
This ambiguity was underscored by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, a key player in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. On CNN's "State of the Union," he said that the administration needed to outline its long-term goals in Libya.
"My assumption would be that Admiral Mullen and the president and the secretary of state are working this issue very hard, but we haven't heard that articulated," he said.