Coalition Takes Aim at Libyan Air Defenses

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 — Coali­tion mem­bers fired 110 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles at Libya’s inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense sys­tem today as a pre­cur­sor to set­ting up a no-fly zone over the coun­try, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said.
In Brazil, where he is on the first leg of a three-nation trip to South Amer­i­ca, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said no U.S. ground troops will deploy to Libya, but that the Unit­ed States would pro­vide “unique assets” to enforce the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion meant to pro­tect the Libyan peo­ple from the forces of Moam­mar Gad­hafi.

Navy Vice Adm. Wlliam E. Gort­ney, direc­tor of the Joint Staff, briefed reporters at the Pen­ta­gon on the launch of “Oper­a­tion Odyssey Daw.”

“The goals of these ini­tial oper­a­tions are essen­tial­ly twofold: first, to pre­vent fur­ther attacks by regime forces on Libyan cit­i­zens and oppo­si­tion groups, espe­cial­ly around Beng­hazi, and sec­ond, to degrade the regime’s capa­bil­i­ty to resist the no-fly zone we are imple­ment­ing under that Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tion,” Gort­ney said short­ly after the attacks were launched.

Most of the tar­gets were on or near the coast and around the Libyan cap­i­tal of Tripoli, Gort­ney said. The coali­tion care­ful­ly picked the tar­gets, he added, which either threat­ened coali­tion pilots or through use by the regime, posed a direct threat to the Libyan peo­ple of Libya.

“I want to stress that this is just the first phase of what will like­ly be a mul­ti­phase mil­i­tary oper­a­tion designed to enforce the Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tion,” the admi­ral said.

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty gave Gad­hafi the oppor­tu­ni­ty to yes­ter­day to pur­sue an imme­di­ate cease-fire, Oba­ma not­ed. “But despite the hol­low words of his gov­ern­ment, he has ignored that oppor­tu­ni­ty,” he said. “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.”

Oba­ma stressed that the Unit­ed States is one nation involved in a multi­na­tion­al oper­a­tion.

For now, Gort­ney told reporters, Oper­a­tion Odyssey Dawn is under the com­mand of Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, com­man­der of U.S. Africa Com­mand. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Lock­lear III is the com­man­der of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn aboard the com­mand ship USS Mount Whit­ney. Lock­lear com­mands U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, as well as NATO Allied Joint Forces Com­mand.

“We antic­i­pate the even­tu­al tran­si­tion of lead­er­ship to a coali­tion com­man­der in the com­ing days,” Gort­ney said. Still, even with the tran­si­tion, the U.S. mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to pro­vide sup­port, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and logis­tics to coali­tion forces.

“Our mis­sion now is to shape the bat­tle space in such a way that our part­ners can take the lead in exe­cu­tion,” he said.

Forces will assess the results of the strikes in the com­ing hours, and that will shape oper­a­tions for the future, Gort­ney said. This will take some time, he added, with Glob­al Hawk unmanned aer­i­al air­craft and nation­al tech­ni­cal means pro­vid­ing the infor­ma­tion need­ed.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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