VINEYARD HAVEN, Massachusetts -- President Obama said Monday that the situation in Libya remains fluid but the regime of Col Moammar Qaddafi "is coming to an end and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people."
In his first on-camera comments about the dramatic developments, Obama stressed the fight in Tripoli is not over yet but said it has now reached a "tipping point" again Qadaffi.
While Obama acknowledged the international community still does not know the whereabouts of Qaddafi, he praised the NATO military mission that led to this moment.
Obama has faced criticism from Democrats like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) who believed the U.S. involvement in the mission was illegal, and Republicans like Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who charged Sunday that the U.S. "led from behind" by having the British and French play a greater role in the mission.
The President called NATO the "most capable alliance in the world," and he added that the mission in Libya "demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one."
The President's comments Monday afternoon came shortly he conducted a secure conference call with senior members of his national security team about the situation in Libya, the second time in 24 hours that he convened such a call. He also was briefed in the morning by John Brennan, a senior aide on the National Security Council who is traveling here with the President for this very purpose.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, also traveling with the President, said the U.S. government is not aware of Qaddafi's whereabouts and there is "no evidence to suggest he's left" Libya.
As for reports suggesting that Qaddafi contacted the Obama administration at the 11th hour to buy more time as rebels closed in on Tripoli, Earnest said, "I have not heard anything" on that.
Earnest pushed back on criticism by McCain, who charged Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the U.S. had not shown enough leadership.
"The President's robust leadership here is pretty clear," said Earnest, who asserted that Obama helped "put in place an international coalition" that has "yieled some pretty -- a lot of favorable results here."
Pressed on whether Obama deserves credit, Earnest said only, "We're please with the way this has gone."
As for whether there is some vindication for Obama, Earnest said, "I'm not here to play political pundit, assessing winners and losers."
While British Prime Minister David Cameron has cut short his vacation, Earnest said Obama has no plans at this time to end his vacation and return to Washington to monitor the situation.