WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 — Expressing confidence in the U.S. service members taking part, President Barack Obama said the military action that began today in Libya is an international effort designed to protect a threatened people.
An international coalition launched strikes today on Libyan air defenses to begin enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 by paving the way for enforcement of a no-fly zone and preventing the regime of Moammar Gadhafi from inflicting further harm on the Libyan people amid calls for political reform.
“In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people,” Obama said today in Brazil, his first stop in a three-nation trip through South America. “That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.”
Obama noted that the international community yesterday gave Gadhafi the chance to declare a cease-fire that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of his forces. “But despite the hollow words of his government,” the president added, “he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.”
Though he described the military action as “limited” and repeated his assertion that no U.S. ground forces would be sent to Libya, he said he recognizes the risks and didn’t take the decision lightly. “But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government,” he said.
As a part of the coalition effort, Obama said, the United States will contribute unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by international partners.
“As commander in chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation,” the president said. “I’m also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.”
Obama said he authorized the action after consulting with his national security team, and congressional leaders from both parties, and he pledged to keep the American people fully informed.
“But make no mistake,” he added. “Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.”
Earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, met in Paris with representatives of various nations who gathered to discuss the situation in Libya.
“This is a fluid and fast-moving situation, which may be the understatement of the time,” she said. “And I know that there are lots of questions that people have about what’s next and what will we be doing. So let me just underscore the key point: This is a broad international effort; the world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed.
“The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce Resolution 1973,” Clinton continued. “We are standing with the people of Libya, and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)