(CNN) - President Obama in his weekly address Saturday said the U.S. military has "made important progress" in the situation in Libya and defended his decision to begin a military operation.
Obama last week gave the order for the United States to begin Operation Odyssey Dawn, a multi phase mission being carried out in coalition with French and British military forces against Moammar Gadhafi's forces, after the nations became convinced that the Libyan leader was not adhering to a United Nations-mandated cease-fire. The United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan have also agreed to provide humanitarian or logistical support.
On Saturday Obama said, "I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm's way," and made the case for his decision to engage in Libya.
In the address, which focused entirely on Libya, Obama said the United States should not be involved whenever a catastrophe occurs in the world, but that the humanitarian crisis in Libya as a result of Gadhafi's actions was grounds for intervention, calling it "our responsibility."
"The United States should not-and cannot-intervene every time there's a crisis somewhere in the world," Obama said. "But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Gadhafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives-then it's in our national interest to act. And it's our responsibility. This is one of those times."
"Make no mistake," Obama said, "because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians-innocent men, women and children-have been saved."
The president described the mission as "clear and focused," while touting the coalition's successes of establishing a no fly zone and pushing Gadhafi's forces back from the city of Benghazi. He also reiterated that the U.S. role in the operation, which did not include putting troops on the ground, is being diminished as NATO allies step in to take the lead.
"As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea." Obama said. "Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners."
But, Obama acknowledged that Gadhafi's forces are continuing to fight and kill civilians, and once again called for an end to the violence.
"Our message is clear and unwavering. Gadhafi's attacks against civilians must stop," Obama said. "His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized."