Qaddafi and the Horse Named Celtic

Last night, President Obama described the situation in Libya, where rebels have swept into Tripoli, as at a “tipping point.” In a statement issued yesterday, he said Colonel Qaddafi “needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement yesterday that the rebels’ National Transitional Council needs to plan for Libya after Qaddafi and also called on the colonel to step aside.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman returned to Cairo yesterday after spending two days in Benghazi. He explained today that Qaddafi’s allies were reaching out to Washington right up until the rebel push began. As Feltman described, “they were looking for a way to find a lifeline, buy time, to prevent what was then becoming inevitable, which was the uprising in Tripoli.” He also reported that the Libyan officials were acting “defiant,” asking to negotiate but keeping the prospect of Qaddafi stepping down off the table.

Contradictory reports are emerging about the status of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that his view was that the Iraqi leaders “finally did say yes” to extending the U.S. troop presence beyond the December 31, 2011, deadline for withdrawal. And the Pentagon has already begun making preparations for a longer stay, according to the SecDef. Iraq meanwhile quickly replied that “the negotiations have not been finalized” and that Washington and Baghdad “have not yet agreed on the issue of keeping training forces” in the country.

Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile got to name a horse. He took in Mongolia’s culture, giving archery a try and watching a wrestling match, and Mongolian officials presented him with a horse, which he named Celtic. Biden was only in Mongolia briefly after spending a few days in China. His next and final stop on his trip to Asia is Tokyo.