WASHINGTON, March 31, 2011 — Coalition forces raced the clock in Libya this month as Moammar Gadhafi sent his forces marching on Benghazi, “intent on brutalizing the people there,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
“I cannot remember a time when so many nations mobilized so many forces so fast,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee.
“But we were ready,” the chairman added. “Before the ink was even dry on that U.N. resolution, there were planes and ships, pilots and sailors, moving into position, ready to act.” NATO assumed command of the entire military mission over Libya early this morning, Mullen said, noting that 20 nations now are participating in the mission, renamed Operation Unified Protector.
“Contributions range across the board, from active participation in strike operations to financial aid and assistance for humanitarian efforts,” Mullen said. Several Arab countries are involved in the operation, the chairman added, despite domestic challenges of their own.
“The United States and the international community remain grateful for their experience and their leadership,” he said.
Strong military partnerships led to the speedy international response beginning March 19, when in less than a day coalition airstrikes paved the way for establishing a no-fly zone to protect Libyan citizens, Mullen said.
“We — and I mean the collective we, not just the United States — have invested in close relationships with one another, facilitated by nearby air and naval basing and improved over time through annual exercises, personnel exchanges, actual combat experience and mutual dialogue,” the chairman said.
U.S. forces remain committed to the mission, though their contributions will diminish as NATO takes the lead, Mullen said.
“I can assure you that your men and women in uniform will execute that mission, now in support of NATO, with the same professionalism with which they have led that mission until today,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)