Gadhafi Regime is History, NATO Officials Say

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2011 — NATO forces con­tin­ue to pro­tect Libyan civil­ians from pro-Gad­hafi vio­lence, but the regime is crum­bling, los­ing ground to fight­ers who sup­port the fledg­ling Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil and to the peo­ple of Libya them­selves, NATO offi­cials said today.

NATO and our part­ners have con­duct­ed a high­ly effec­tive cam­paign in sup­port of the Libyan peo­ple under the man­date of the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil,” NATO spokes­woman Oana Lunges­cu said this morn­ing dur­ing a media brief­ing from the alliance’s head­quar­ters in Brus­sels.

“Over the past five months,” she added, “we have steadi­ly degrad­ed the war machine built up over more than 40 years.”

Join­ing her by video­con­fer­ence from Naples, Italy, was Col. Roland Lavoie of the Cana­di­an air force, mil­i­tary spokesman for NATO’s Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor.

“There’s no doubt that pro-Gad­hafi forces are severe­ly erod­ed, los­ing through defec­tion or cap­ture key deci­sion mak­ers being expelled from strate­gic mil­i­tary posi­tions,” Lavoie said, “and most impor­tant­ly, [the regime is] los­ing the abil­i­ty to sup­press the Libyan pop­u­la­tion in a grow­ing num­ber of cities and vil­lages.”

NATO forces do not know Gadhafi’s where­abouts, Lavoie said, adding that he’s not sure it mat­ters. The solu­tion to Libya’s prob­lems will be polit­i­cal, he said, and Gad­hafi “is not the key play­er any more.”

NATO forces today passed a mile­stone of 20,000 sor­ties flown and 5,000 mil­i­tary tar­gets dam­aged or destroyed, includ­ing more than 800 tanks and artillery pieces, Lunges­cu said, with unprece­dent­ed pre­ci­sion and min­i­mal risk to civil­ians.

“For the Gad­hafi regime, this is the final chap­ter,” she added. “The end is near, and events are mov­ing fast. What’s clear to every­body is that Gad­hafi is his­to­ry, and the soon­er he real­izes it, the bet­ter.”

The rem­nants of the regime are des­per­ate, Lunges­cu said.

“They may be try­ing to fight back here and there,” she said, “but they’re fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle. The launch last night of anoth­er Scud-type mis­sile against Mis­ra­ta is proof that we can­not drop our guard.”

Mean­while, regard­less of the lat­est devel­op­ments, NATO’s mil­i­tary mis­sion has not changed, Lavoie said. NATO forces will keep up the pres­sure until there are no more attacks against civil­ians, Gadhafi’s forces are with­drawn to their bases, and full and unim­ped­ed human­i­tar­i­an access has been assured, she added.

Because sev­er­al areas still are con­test­ed, Lavoie said, “we have to remain vig­i­lant and con­tin­ue to pro­tect the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.”

The Libyan cap­i­tal of Tripoli con­tin­ues to expe­ri­ence clash­es between pro- and anti-Gad­hafi forces, he said.

The ten­sion “is far from being over,” Lavoie added.

This after­noon, Lunges­cu said, ambas­sadors will meet at NATO head­quar­ters to take stock of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor and the way for­ward in Libya.

“I can’t pre­judge the ambas­sadors’ dis­cus­sion,” she said, “but there is a gen­er­al under­stand­ing that any future NATO engage­ment will be gov­erned by three prin­ci­ples.”

Those prin­ci­ples are:

— The lead­ing role in the post-Gad­hafi peri­od in sup­port­ing the Libyan peo­ple rests with the Unit­ed Nations and the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil, and NATO will have a sup­port­ing role;

NATO will have no troops on the ground; and

— Any future NATO role in Libya in addi­tion to the cur­rent one under Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor will have to be on request.

“We have seen peo­ple in Tripoli rejoic­ing as the Gad­hafi regime crum­bles,” Lunges­cu said. “They have lived under the threat of vio­lence for decades. Now they can hope for a new begin­ning.”

In the Unit­ed States today, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said the Unit­ed States has been mon­i­tor­ing and con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor Libya’s chem­i­cal weapons stock­piles. The sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try still is very flu­id, he added, and fight­ing con­tin­ues.

“While we believe that the oppo­si­tion forces con­trol a large part of the coun­try,” Lapan said, “Libya, and Tripoli in par­tic­u­lar, are still very dan­ger­ous places.”

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