NATO Reaffirms Commitment to Libyan People

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2011 — NATO-led oper­a­tions in Libya will con­tin­ue to focus on pro­tect­ing the Libyan peo­ple, and will not sup­port either the pro- or anti-Gad­hafi forces, a NATO spokes­woman said today.

NATO’s No. 1 con­cern has been the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians from the very begin­ning of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor,” Oana Lunges­cu said.

The alliance ini­ti­at­ed the oper­a­tion to enforce U.N. Secu­ri­ty Res­o­lu­tions 1970 and 1973 fol­low­ing the “gross and sys­tem­at­ic vio­la­tion” of human rights by the Gad­hafi regime in Libya, said Col. Roland Lavoie of the Cana­di­an air force, mil­i­tary spokesman for the oper­a­tion.

“The res­o­lu­tions specif­i­cal­ly refer to the repres­sion of peace­ful demon­stra­tors, arbi­trary deten­tions and forced dis­ap­pear­ances, tor­ture and sum­ma­ry exe­cu­tions,” he explained.

NATO has effec­tive­ly enforced the U.N. man­date to pro­tect civil­ians, Lunges­cu not­ed. “We have saved count­less lives, and by pro­tect­ing Libyan civil­ians, we’ve helped them to grad­u­al­ly resume a nor­mal life across Libya,” she said. “And [we’ve helped them] take the future into their own hands.”

NATO still is focused on pro­tect­ing the Libyan peo­ple as the sit­u­a­tion in some parts of the coun­try remains flu­id, Lungesco said.

“Our mis­sion is not yet com­plete,” she said. “Six months ago when NATO, togeth­er with our part­ners, start­ed [enforc­ing] the man­date of the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Beng­hazi was under threat, Mis­ra­ta was under siege, and civil­ians were attacked and threat­ened every day by Gad­hafi regime forces.”

NATO’s involve­ment, Lungesco not­ed, will last only as long as its mis­sion dic­tates. “As the sec­re­tary gen­er­al has clear­ly stat­ed, we are deter­mined to con­tin­ue the mis­sion for as long as nec­es­sary, but not a day longer than nec­es­sary,” she said. “Our clear inten­tion is to ter­mi­nate the mis­sion as soon as the sit­u­a­tion allows.”

Lavoie said Libya’s Nation­al Tran­si­tion Coun­cil forces have attempt­ed to peace­ful­ly resolve the dis­putes through­out the coun­try.

“The areas of con­fronta­tion between Gad­hafi and NTC forces on the ground have not changed dras­ti­cal­ly over the last few days,” he said. “This is essen­tial­ly due to the delib­er­ate, and very com­mend­able, efforts of the NTC to try to resolve the sit­u­a­tion through dia­logue.

“Despite the NTC offer to seek a peace­ful solu­tion as this week pro­gressed, it became quite clear that the remain­ing Gad­hafi forces were not will­ing to nego­ti­ate and lose their grip on the cities they still con­trol,” he added.

Lavoie said Gadhafi’s forces cur­rent­ly con­trol Bani Walid and Surt and have “tak­en the pop­u­la­tion hostage.”

NATO is close­ly mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion, of course, and will con­tin­ue to do so as long as nec­es­sary, although I must stress that NATO does not and will not engage in close air sup­port for the NTC forces as our focus remains the pro­tec­tion of the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion,” he said.

Despite these issues, Lavoie said tan­gi­ble progress has been made in Libya. “The main advances in Libya are not in the mil­i­tary domain, but rather, in the civil­ian sec­tor where we observed that the rebuild­ing of Libya is def­i­nite­ly under way,” he said.

Ground trans­porta­tion move­ments are resum­ing, and ship­ping and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance flights now are rou­tine, Lavoie not­ed. And many cities now have nor­mal access to water, elec­tric­i­ty and oth­er basic ser­vices, he added.

Addi­tion­al­ly, “as in many oth­er coun­tries around the world, schools are plan­ning to re-open their doors soon in sev­er­al regions,” the colonel said, “and sev­er­al indus­tries and refiner­ies are being pre­pared to resume their activ­i­ties, which will jump­start the eco­nom­ic recov­ery of Libya.”

Tak­en indi­vid­u­al­ly, he said, these mile­stones may not appear sig­nif­i­cant. “But, real­ly,” he added, “their cumu­la­tive effect is clear, and is clear­ly paving the way for the recov­ery of Libya. Today, the recov­ery of Libya is now quite obvi­ous, and the out­come no longer in doubt.”

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