Gates: NATO’s Libya Plans to Include Military Options

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)

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