Gates Cautions Against Ending U.S. Support in Libya

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2011 — If the Unit­ed States uni­lat­er­al­ly end­ed sup­port to the NATO mis­sion in Libya, it would have enor­mous and dan­ger­ous long-term con­se­quences, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said here today.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates is con­cerned over the prospect of Con­gress vot­ing against con­tin­ued U.S. sup­port to the NATO mis­sion in Libya, said Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell, who is here with Gates at the Shangri-La Dia­logue secu­ri­ty sum­mit.

That would send “an unhelp­ful mes­sage of dis­uni­ty and uncer­tain­ty to our troops, our allies and, most impor­tant­ly, the Gad­hafi regime,” Mor­rell said, adding that the sec­re­tary is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned about the impact such a move could have on U.S. rela­tions with NATO allies.

“As a key NATO part­ner, they have asked us to pro­vide sup­port, just like we have asked them over the years to sup­port dif­fi­cult oper­a­tions in Afghanistan,” he said.

Mor­rell said the sec­re­tary under­stands the con­cerns that some in Con­gress have expressed, and that he wel­comes the legit­i­mate pol­i­cy debate. Still, he wants the debate to pro­ceed in ways that do not under­mine the NATO allies and mil­i­tary oper­a­tions, Mor­rell added.

The oper­a­tion began in March with U.S., British and French naval and air forces launch­ing attacks to pre­vent those loy­al to Libyan dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi from con­tin­u­ing attacks on inno­cent civil­ians and rebel forces in Libya. NATO took over com­mand of the effort at the end of March, and U.S. forces now play a sup­port role in the effort.

The U.S. mil­i­tary pro­vides sup­port to NATO forces, includ­ing air-to-air refu­el­ing; intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance assets; and unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said when he ordered Amer­i­can forces to sup­port the mis­sion that there would be no U.S. boots on the ground, and that is still the case.

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

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