BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 10, 2011 — NATO’s defense ministers share concern about Moammar Gadhafi’s escalating attacks on the Libyan people and have agreed to plan for all military options, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.
Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers, Gates added that NATO will act only “if there is demonstrable need, a sound legal basis and strong regional support” for military action.
Gates said he welcomes the decision to reposition naval assets in the central Mediterranean Sea to enhance NATO’s ability to monitor the United Nations arms embargo and to provide support for humanitarian efforts by the U.N., European Union and others.
“This builds on the decision earlier this week to increase around-the-clock aerial surveillance of Libya,” the secretary said. “It’s my impression that we’re really not talking so much about increasing the number of ships as [we are] about repositioning ships that are already in the region.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance is prepared for whatever it may be required to do.
“NATO is united, NATO is vigilant, NATO is ready to act,” he said.
NATO defense ministers and those from other countries that contribute troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, along with Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, will meet tomorrow to discuss the Joint Afghan-NATO Transition Board’s recommendations for the first areas where responsibility for security will transfer to Afghan forces.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to make a formal announcement on the matter March 21.
Tomorrow’s session also will include discussion of ongoing support to Afghanistan through the end of the security transition process in 2014, such as training Afghan security forces and further developing a long-term partnership, NATO officials said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)