NATO Officials: Work Still Remains in Libya

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2011 — The NATO mis­sion in Libya is impor­tant, effec­tive and still nec­es­sary to pro­tect civil­ians in that embat­tled nation, a NATO spokes­woman said today.

“As long as threats remain, there’s still a job to be done and we will get that job done,” Oana Lunges­cu told reporters today at NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels.

“The mis­sion will con­tin­ue in full com­pli­ance with the Unit­ed Nations man­date for as long as it’s need­ed, but not a day longer,” she added.

Join­ing her in a live video­con­fer­ence from Naples was Col. Roland Lavoie of the Cana­di­an air force, NATO’s mil­i­tary spokesman for Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor.

“The Gad­hafi regime is col­laps­ing and rapid­ly los­ing con­trol on mul­ti­ple fronts,” Lavoie said. The port of Tripoli now is acces­si­ble to com­mer­cial and human­i­tar­i­an ship­ping, said he added, and the two met­ro­pol­i­tan air­ports are secured.

The new Libyan author­i­ties are now pro­vid­ing for the secu­ri­ty of Tripoli, Lavoie said, and the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil is demon­strat­ing its lead­er­ship and its abil­i­ty to coor­di­nate the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices to the city’s res­i­dents.

“These are very encour­ag­ing signs, indeed,” the colonel added.

“It looks as if we’re near­ly there, but we’re not there yet,” Lunges­cu said, adding that in the past week the world has had vivid reminders of the con­tin­u­ing threats.

“We’ve seen the grim pic­tures from Tripoli and the alle­ga­tions of mass graves, exe­cut­ed pris­on­ers and a hos­pi­tal full of dead patients,” she said. “We’ve seen more reports of how the regime has been using mosques, schools and mar­ket­places as shields for its weapons.”

NATO must make sure these threats are gone for good, Lunges­cu said. It’s imper­a­tive, she added, that “the civil­ians and cities in Libya are safe so that the Libyan peo­ple can build a new future based on democ­ra­cy, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and the rule of law.”

Lavoie said the main area of atten­tion now is the cor­ri­dor between Bani Walid and the east­ern edge of Surt, where pro-Gad­hafi forces main­tain a vary­ing pres­ence in sev­er­al coastal cities and vil­lages, and some inland areas.

“Gad­hafi forces are being pushed out of the greater Tripoli area,” Lavoie said. “Despite the pres­ence of rem­nants of the regime, the Tripoli region is essen­tial­ly freed, with the retreat of pro-Gad­hafi forces to the areas of Bani Walid to the south­east of the cap­i­tal,” where they no longer rep­re­sent a direct threat to the pop­u­la­tion of Tripoli.

Over the past week, anti-Gad­hafi forces opened the north­west coastal route link­ing Tripoli to the Tunisian bor­der, the colonel added.

“As the over­all secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion improves, this vital link will grad­u­al­ly allow for more road move­ments,” Lavoie said, “which means more food, more water, fuel, med­i­cine and oth­er sup­plies.”

Once NATO’s job is done, Lunges­cu said, “it is for oth­ers to take over the lead in sup­port­ing Libya.”

The North Atlantic Coun­cil will decide when the Libya mis­sion is com­plete based on the mil­i­tary advice of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor com­man­ders and the mil­i­tary author­i­ties, she added.

“Last week when the North Atlantic Coun­cil met, there was con­sen­sus around the table, togeth­er with the con­tribut­ing part­ners in Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor, that the anti-Gad­hafi momen­tum is irre­versible and there was full com­mit­ment to con­tin­ue the mis­sion until the man­date is ful­filled but no longer than is absolute­ly nec­es­sary,” Lunges­cu said.

U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-Moon will trav­el to Paris Sept. 1 to take part in a senior-lev­el meet­ing on Libya, she said.

“This will be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for fur­ther coor­di­na­tion of inter­na­tion­al sup­port for the peo­ple of Libya,” Lunges­cu said, “as they final­ly begin to hold the future in their own hands.”

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