NATO: End in Sight As Libya Mission Continues

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2011 — As Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton vis­its Libya today to reaf­firm U.S. sup­port for the country’s tran­si­tion­al gov­ern­ment, NATO offi­cials empha­sized that the mis­sion there, while near­ing com­ple­tion, isn’t over.

“It is pre­ma­ture to set a timetable now” for end­ing Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor, NATO deputy spokes­woman Car­men Romero told reporters in Brus­sels.

“We are very close to the end, but there are still threats to the pop­u­la­tion,” she said. “And as long as these threats per­sist, we will con­tin­ue with our oper­a­tion.”

End­ing the mis­sion will be a polit­i­cal deci­sion made by the alliance’s North Atlantic Coun­cil after “a care­ful and com­pre­hen­sive polit­i­cal analy­sis” of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground, Romero said.

NATO will coor­di­nate with both the Libyan Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil and Unit­ed Nations in mak­ing the deci­sion, she said, by weigh­ing threats to the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion and the council’s abil­i­ty to pro­vide pro­tec­tion.

Mean­while, NATO’s mil­i­tary spokesman for the oper­a­tion report­ed on the advanc­ing capa­bil­i­ties of the Libyan council’s forces. Col. Roland Lavoie of the Cana­di­an army empha­sized, how­ev­er, that NATO remains com­mit­ted to ful­fill­ing its man­date in Libya and will inter­vene as nec­es­sary to enforce it.

“There should be no doubt that NATO remains ready to engage, using all nec­es­sary force against mil­i­tary assets that may rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant threat against civil­ians in Libya,” he said. “Our mis­sion may well be near com­ple­tion, but we will main­tain a strong, vig­i­lant pos­ture until relieved of our duties.”

Clin­ton arrived in the Libyan cap­i­tal of Tripoli today to meet with Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and pledge addi­tion­al sup­port as Libya forms its new gov­ern­ment.

Clin­ton is the most senior U.S. offi­cial to vis­it Libya since the upris­ing against strong­man Moam­mar Gad­hafi began in Feb­ru­ary.

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