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Flip-Flop: Obama Admin Sends Signals That Gadhafi Can Stay in Power

"This is not about going after Gaddafi himself..."

On the Sunday news shows this morning, the Obama administration sent signals that Libya's Moammar Gadhafi could stay in power--despite earlier statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama that Gadhafi must go.

On Fox News Sunday today, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, said "We're in a situation now that what we do will depend to some degree on what he does," Mullen told Fox News Sunday.

"The focus of the United Nations Security Council was really Benghazi specifically and to protect the civilians," Mullen said.

"Clearly we have taken down the important nodes that remove his capability," the top-ranked US military officer said.

"This is not about going after Gaddafi himself or attacking him at this particular point in time. It is about achieving these narrow and relatively limited objectives so that he stops killing his people and so that humanitarian support can be provided."

On "Meet the Press," Mullen described the campaign's aims as "limited," saying it "isn't about seeing him (Gadhafi) go." Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mullen was asked whether it was possible that the mission's goals could be achieved while leaving Gadhafi in power.

"That's certainly potentially one outcome," he replied.

Pressed on this point later in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Mullen was more vague. "How this ends from the political standpoint, I just can't say," Mullen said. He said it was too early to speculate.

U.S. officials said at the outset of the missile strikes on Saturday that the goals are to prevent Gadhafi from inflicting further violence on his own people and to degrade his military's ability to contest a no-fly zone. Mullen said Sunday that the no-fly zone was now in place, with Gadhafi having put no aircraft in the sky.

President Barack Obama, on an official visit to Brazil, held a conference call Sunday with top national security officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Army Gen. Carter Ham, who as head of U.S. Africa Command is in charge of the Libya military operation. Ham's headquarters are in Stuttgart, Germany.

Mullen said he thinks Gadhafi is more isolated than ever as a result of the no-fly zone and an arms embargo. He said the Libyan leader is "going to have to make some choices about his own future" at some point.

Mullen also said he hasn't seen any reports of civilian casualties as a result of the coalition's military operation and that Gadhafi has resorted to using human shields in an attempt to prevent further attacks.

The AP contributed to this report.

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