Mullen Says No-fly Zone ‘Effectively in Place’

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2011 — Ini­tial oper­a­tions in Libya have been very effec­tive, with French, British and U.S. air strikes crip­pling Libyan dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gadhafi’s capa­bil­i­ties, the U.S. military’s top-rank­ing offi­cer said today.
Speak­ing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that after one day of oper­a­tions, the coali­tion already has tak­en out most of Gadhafi’s air defens­es and air­fields, and that the no-fly zone in Libya has been estab­lished.

“We’ve worked hard to plan this in a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od of time,” Mullen said. “I would say that the no-fly zone is effec­tive­ly in place.”

Gadhafi’s forces are stretched thin between the Libyan oil towns and major cities of Tripoli and Beng­hazi, Mullen said, not­ing that U.S. fight­er jets have deliv­ered major blows to forces in those towns and now are work­ing to attack Gadhafi’s sup­ply lines.

“We’ve got com­bat air patrols and air­craft over Beng­hazi, and we’ll have them there on a 24/7 basis,” the admi­ral explained. “[Gadhafi’s forces haven’t] flown any air­craft in the past two days. He’s pret­ty well stretched now, and we will endeav­or to sev­er his logis­tics sup­port here in the next day or so.

“We’re in a sit­u­a­tion now where what we do will depend to some degree on what he does,” Mullen added. “We’ve focused main­ly on his air defense capa­bil­i­ties and air­fields, [but] this will allow us to get oth­er capa­bil­i­ties where we can jam his com­mu­ni­ca­tions and those kinds of things.”

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, com­man­der of U.S. Africa Com­mand, is lead­ing the coali­tion effort in Libya. Mullen said he expects Ham to hand com­mand off to a coali­tion com­man­der in the next few days, and that the Unit­ed States will tran­si­tion to more of a sup­port­ing role in an effort that will involve more nations, includ­ing Arab mil­i­taries.

“As more and more capa­bil­i­ties from oth­er coun­tries start to show up, I think you’ll see the U.S. move to more of a sup­port role,” the chair­man said. “I’m very con­fi­dent that there will be mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties from some Arab nations, that they are actu­al­ly mov­ing into the­ater now.

“That’s been the com­mit­ment on part of the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship in some Arab coun­tries, and I expect that to hap­pen mil­i­tar­i­ly, as well,” he added.

Mullen also field­ed ques­tions on ABC’s “This Week with Chris­tiane Aman­pour.”

With Arab states join­ing the coali­tion effort, Gad­hafi is more iso­lat­ed by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty than ever before, Mullen said, not­ing Unit­ed Nations sanc­tions and an arms embar­go now emplaced on Libya.

Although Gad­hafi may be vul­ner­a­ble, Mullen said, he stressed that the U.S. mil­i­tary objec­tive is not to top­ple the regime. Rather, he said, it’s to ensure the no-fly zone, pro­tect Libyan civil­ians and sup­port human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance to flow into the coun­try.

“We’re very focused on the lim­it­ed objec­tive [Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma] and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has giv­en us in terms of pro­vid­ing the no-fly zone so [Gad­hafi] can­not attack his own peo­ple, to avoid any kind of human­i­tar­i­an mas­sacre and to pro­vide for the human­i­tar­i­an sup­port of the Libyan peo­ple,” he explained.

The inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary effort so far has been very suc­cess­ful, he said.

“From a mil­i­tary stand­point, cer­tain­ly [Gadhafi’s forces] have some capa­bil­i­ties, but they’ve not been very effec­tive,” Mullen said. “He still has, from what I see this morn­ing, some sur­face-to-air capa­bil­i­ties where he could attack an air­craft, [but] we haven’t see large scales of that after yes­ter­day.

“He clear­ly still has the capa­bil­i­ty to attack his own peo­ple,” the chair­man con­tin­ued. “We’re very focused on that, and try­ing to ensure his mil­i­tary forces don’t do that.”

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

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